MEA summons US diplomat over ‘pat-down’ search of Shankar

MEA summons US diplomat over ‘pat-down’ search of Shankar

New Delhi: India on Saturday lodged a strong protest with the US for subjecting ambassador Meera Shankar to ‘pat-down’ security check at an American airport as Deputy Chief of US Embassy at New Delhi was summoned to the ministry of external affairs.

Donald Lu was called in by Javed Ashra, joint secretary (Americas) in the MEA, at 12.30 PM to convey “strong concern" over screening of Shankar at the Mississippi Airport on 4 December, sources said.

The US official was told that the action was “contrary to the normal diplomatic practice and inconsistent with the excellent relations that India and the US enjoy", the sources said.

Ashraf referred to external affairs minister S M Krishna’s assertion that such incidents are “unacceptable" and said the US state department and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) should sensitise all their agents at all the airports to ensure proper privileges and courtesies are extended to Indian ambassador and diplomats.

“Despite the fact that the Indian Mission had followed state department guidelines for expeditious clearance for the ambassador, she was escorted by the TSA officials.

“She had pointed her diplomatic identity but had to undergo the security checks because, as we have been informed, she was wearing a sari," Ashraf told the American diplomat.

The Indian official told Lu, “we understand and respect every country’s security procedure but we also expect that normal diplomatic privileges and courtesies are extended to the Ambassador and diplomats."

The American diplomat was told that India expects that the state department and the TSA would “sensitise all its agents at all its airports to cultural and religious sensitivities of foreign diplomats."

Ashraf pointed out that India respects the privileges of foreign diplomats in India and extends diplomatic courtesies to them. “Such incidents naturally lead to calls for review of privileges and facilities given in India (to foreign diplomats)," he said.