US regrets Indian envoy’s frisking

By Arun Kumar, IANS
Thursday, December 9, 2010

WASHINGTON - Amid an uproar over the “pat down” screening of Indian ambassador Meera Shankar at a US airport, Washington has reached out to her and promised to see what could be done to prevent such incidents.

“We obviously are concerned about it,” US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday as India reacted strongly to Shankar being pulled out of an airport security line for a pat down in Mississippi despite being told of her diplomatic status.

“We will be looking into it and trying to determine both what happened and what we could do to prevent such incidents in the future,” Clinton told reporters at the State Department during a joint press availability with her Nigerian counterpart.

Indian embassy spokesman Virander Paul confirmed that the envoy was subjected to the pat down security check at the Jackson-Evers International Airport Saturday Dec 4 when Shankar came to board a flight to Washington after attending a function at the Mississippi State University.

“The US State Department has reached out to the Ambassador and has regretted what all had happened,” Paul said. “The Embassy is in touch with the State Department on this issue.”

State Department spokesman P J Crowley said Department of Homeland Security “has indicated they’re prepared to talk about” the ambassador being pulled out for secondary screening, but repeated that diplomats are not exempt from screening.

“They are subject to basic security. So everyone at the airport goes through a basic screening,” he said.

Crowley said there are published guidelines on diplomats and from a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) standpoint they followed their normal procedures.

“It is the responsibility of the TSA to assess each passenger and then work each passenger through security based on what they see,” he said, adding that as to the rationale that TSA used for this, he will let them explain it.

India has termed the treatment meted out to Shankar as “unacceptable” and said matter would be taken up with the American government.

“Let me be frank, this is unacceptable to India. We are going to take it up with the government of US that such unpleasant incidents do not recur,” External Affairs Minister S M Krishna said in New Delhi.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at

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