India snubs US lawmakers over diplomat's arrest

Top politicians and security officials in India are refusing to meet a visiting bipartisan congressional delegation in retaliation for the arrest of an Indian diplomat in New York.

The snub is the latest twist in an escalating showdown following last week's arrest of India's deputy counsel general by State Department Diplomatic Security officials on visa fraud charges. India has also summoned the U.S ambassador, withdrawn priority parking for U.S. diplomats and removed concrete security barriers in front of the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, prompting a protest from the State Department.

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The delegation includes Reps. George Holding (R-N.C.), Pete Olson (R-Texas), David Schweikert (R-Ariz.), Robert Woodall (R-Ga.) and Del. Madeleine Bordallo (D-Guam.), The Los Angeles Times reports. The speaker of India's lower House and its national security advisor refused to meet with them earlier this week, according to the Times, as did the frontrunner to become prime minister next year, Narendra Modi.

“Refused to meet the visiting USA delegation in solidarity with our nation, protesting ill-treatment meted (out) to our lady diplomat in USA,” Modi tweeted.

The State Department has refused to criticize the arrest of Devyani Khobragade, whom Indian media say was handcuffed while she was dropping her children off at school and strip-searched. But spokeswoman Marie Harf said the State Department is also seeking to address India's concerns.

“We don't want this to negatively impact our bilateral relationship, and we'll keep talking about it with them on the ground and here,” she told reporters on Tuesday. “We know this is a sensitive issue ... and that's why we're looking at what transpired and talking to the Indians about it directly.”

She raised concerns with the removal of security barriers, however. 

“We've been very clear that they need to uphold all of their obligations under the Vienna Convention, and in terms of security, we'll keep working with them on that as well,” Harf said.

“Obviously, the safety and security of our diplomats and consular officers in the field is a top priority. We'll continue to work with India to ensure that all of our diplomats and consular officers are being afforded full rights and protections. Also, of course, safety and security of our facilities as well is something we take very seriously, and we'll keep working with the Indians on that.”

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