US seeks to cool diplomatic row over envoy pat down

By Arun Kumar, IANS
Friday, December 10, 2010

WASHINGTON - Awaiting a formal complaint from India regarding the “pat down” screen of its ambassador Meera Shankar at a US airport, the United States says it’s trying to work out ways to avoid such incidents that may spark diplomatic tensions.

“We have been told that a formal complaint is coming. I just don’t think it’s arrived yet,” State Department spokesman P. J. Crowley told reporters Friday, but insisted from its standpoint the Transport Security Administration (TSA) had followed proper procedure.

The department was in touch with the Department of Homeland Security, he said, to figure out “ways in which we can improve communications so that officials at airports know when diplomats are coming and help to better facilitate their movement through security.”

“As we’ve said, and properly so, everyone from diplomats to ordinary citizens are screened prior to boarding airplanes,” Crowley said.

“That happens here. It happens around the world. But certainly, there may be ways in which we can improve coordination so that this kind of situation will not happen again.”

While making “clear that all passengers are subject to screening,” Crowley said, “to the extent that ambassadors may, in some cases, wear traditional dress, if that can help TSA with its assessment of the risk that any passenger might pose to the airplane that may be helpful information for them to know.”

The spokesman said he was “not suggesting that their treatment would necessarily be any different.” But “if there’s a way in which we can prevent misunderstandings or help TSA anticipate whatever screening requirements might be required, we’re happy to help facilitate that. We’re just looking to see if there’s any way that we can improve this process.”

“These kinds of situations are not unique to Indian diplomats. It has happened with other diplomats,” Crowley said. But admitted “an incident like this, it can impact, cause public misunderstandings and even diplomatic tension.”

“As we go about our business of protecting the travelling public, both our citizens and the citizens of other countries, we want to try to make sure that people travel secure, but their treatment is fair and consistent with TSA guidelines.”

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at

Filed under: Diplomacy

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