By Julian Pecquet - 12/18/13 02:24 PM EST
Secretary of State John Kerry called India's national security adviser on Wednesday to express his “regret” over the arrest of an Indian diplomat in an effort to calm an escalating diplomatic row with a crucial ally.
Kerry told Shivshankar Menon that he believed foreign diplomats in the U.S. should be “accorded respect and dignity just as we expect our own diplomats should receive overseas.” Kerry said everyone in the U.S. should obey American laws but that he “empathizes” with Indians outraged by the circumstances of the arrest of India's deputy counsel general in New York.
“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,” the State Department said in a readout of the call, “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.”
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.
Khobragade was arrested by State Department Diplomatic Security officials on Thursday and charged with visa fraud and making a false statement. She's accused of paying a babysitter far below minimum wage and confiscating her passport.
Khobragade was arrested while dropping off her children at school and strip-searched, which is routine in federal criminal cases. The case has raised a storm of protest in Indian media and political circles ahead of parliamentary elections next year.
“We understand that this is a sensitive issue for many in India,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said on Tuesday. “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.”
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