20 Dec 2013

US 'regrets' diplomat row with India

4:55 am on 20 December 2013

US Secretary of State John Kerry has called a senior Indian official to express his regret over the treatment of an Indian diplomat arrested in New York on suspicion of visa fraud.

Deputy consul-general Devyani Khobragade was handcuffed and strip-searched last week. She has denied accusations of visa fraud and making false statements, after she was accused of underpaying her Indian maid, the BBC reports.

The incident has sparked demonstrations in India against the United States, and India has ordered a series of reprisals against the US.

Mr Kerry spoke to India's National Security Adviser, Shivshankar Menon, who has described the treatment as "despicable and barbaric".

Mr Kerry said the "unfortunate" incident should not damage US-Indian relations.

State department spokesperson Marie Harf said it was "particularly important to Secretary Kerry that foreign diplomats serving in the United States are accorded respect and dignity just as we expect our own diplomats should receive overseas".

Earlier, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh described Ms Khobragade's treatment as "deplorable" and Foreign Minister Salman Khursheed said it was his duty to restore the diplomat's dignity.

"In terms of giving a strong, unambiguous, direct message to the United States of America: whatever I believe we were supposed to do, we did immediately," Mr Khursheed told the Indian parliament.