NEW DELHI, Dec. 18 (Xinhua) -- The arrest and alleged ill- treatment of an Indian woman diplomat in New York last week has escalated into a major diplomatic row between India and the United States, with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Wednesday terming the incident as "deplorable'.
Devyani Khobragade, the deputy consul general in New York, was arrested, handcuffed in public and subsequently strip-searched in custody by authorities in the U.S. last Thursday on charges of visa fraud and underpaying her Indian maid. The 39-year-old mother of two, who was later released on bail, has denied the charges.
"This is deplorable," the Indian Prime Minister told the media in the national capital on the treatment meted out to the woman diplomat.
Singh's remarks came soon after the Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid condemned the incident and vowed in the Parliament to bring back the diplomat and restore her dignity amid outrage by ruling and opposition party lawmakers who claimed her arrest was a violation of the Vienna convention.
"We strongly condemn the incident. We will do the needful to protect India's interests. It's no longer an issue of an individual, but the sovereignty of a nation is involved. It's totally and entirely unacceptable," Khurshid said.
"Today, our paramount concern is to ensure that the dignity of our officer is preserved. The tragedy is that this is not an incident in which two countries are involved. This is an incident in which individuals are involved. It is not illegality that she is accused of, but the illegality she refused to oblige," he added.
India on Tuesday scaled down diplomatic privileges to U.S. diplomats, asked them to return their IDs and also removed security barricades around the U.S. Embassy in the national capital.
Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and ruling Congress party vice president Rahul Gandhi snubbed a visiting American Congressional delegation by refusing to meet them to protest the woman diplomat's arrest.
In an effort to calm the Indian outrage, the U.S. state department has said that it's looking into the matter, maintaining however at the same time that Khobragade did not have full diplomatic immunity.
"We understand that this is a sensitive issue for many in India. Accordingly, we are looking into the intake procedures surrounding this arrest to ensure that all appropriate procedures were followed and every opportunity for courtesy was extended," U.S. state department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf said in a statement.
Meanwhile, India has reportedly shifted the woman diplomat to the country's permanent United Nations mission in New York in order to ensure complete diplomatic immunity to Khobragade who faces up to 10 years in jail if found guilty.
However, according to 'The Indian Express' newspaper, she will have to apply for a fresh diplomatic card through the UN Secretariat, which would ultimately go for clearance to the U.S. State Department, and India is hopeful that Washington will issue the card and, in doing so, extend full immunity to her.
Experts say that the Indian government is unlikely to accept anything less than an unconditional apology from the U.S. on this issue, particularly with the general elections barely six months away. They said the opposition parties may benefit if New Delhi handles the matter in a soft way.
Video >> US Marshals Office: Indian diplomat strip searched
India protests U.S. arrest of diplomat in New York
NEW DELHI, Dec. 13 (Xinhua) -- Indian Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh Friday summoned U.S. Ambassador to India Nancy Powell in connection with arrest of its Deputy Consul General in New York, Devyani Khobragade said official sources here.Full story