White House reviews Indian diplomat's arrest

The White House said Wednesday that it was reviewing the arrest of an Indian diplomat who said U.S. authorities subjected her to a cavity search and DNA swabbing following her arrest in New York City last week.

ADVERTISEMENT
"We understand that this is a sensitive issue for many in India, and we are looking into the intake procedures surrounding this arrest, to ensure that all standard procedures were followed and that every opportunity for courtesy was extended," White House press secretary Jay Carney said.

Carney added that President Obama had been briefed on the controversy, which has sparked mass protests in India and security fears among U.S. diplomats stationed there.

"I can tell you that the safety and security of our diplomats and consular officials in the field is a top priority," Carney said.

He added that the U.S. viewed the arrest of Devyani Khobragade as an "isolated incident" that did not reflect broader U.S.-India relations.

"The United States and India enjoy a broad and deep friendship, and this isolated incident is not, in our view, indicative of the close and mutually respectful ties that we share," Carney said.

Khobragade, India's deputy consul general in New York, was charged with lying on her visa application about how much she paid her housekeeper. Authorities charge that the maid received less than $3 per hour, according to The Associated Press.

In an email obtained by the Indian media, Khobragade complained of her treatment upon being arrested.

"I broke down many times as the indignities of repeated handcuffing, stripping and cavity searches, swabbing, in a holdup with common criminals and drug addicts were all being imposed upon me despite my incessant assertions of immunity," she wrote.

Khobragade was arrested by the State Department's diplomatic security team and then handed over to the U.S. Marshals Service in New York.

The marshals said Khobragade underwent normal intake procedures, but the strip search of an inmate is seen as an insult in Indian culture and has sparked protests in New Delhi.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh described her treatment as "deplorable."

Earlier Wednesday, Secretary of State John Kerry called Indian National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon to discuss the case.

"As a father of two daughters about the same age as Devyani Khobragade, the Secretary empathizes with the sensitivities we are hearing from India about the events that unfolded after Ms. Khobragade’s arrest, and in his conversation with National Security Advisor Menon he expressed his regret, as well as his concern that we not allow this unfortunate public issue to hurt our close and vital relationship with India," State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a statement.

Menon is one of several top Indian officials who refused to meet with a visiting U.S. congressional delegation in protest over the arrest. India has also removed security barriers in front of the U.S. embassy in New Delhi and summoned the U.S. ambassador to complain.