Another Indian diplomat ‘patted down’, issue taken up with US

Monday, December 13, 2010

NEW DELHI - India has taken up the issue of another of its senior diplomats being ‘patted down’ at an American airport, this time involving India’s permanent representative to United Nations Hardeep Puri.

I have taken it up with the US authorities. And the matter is at that stage, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna told reporters after the second such incident surfaced Monday.

Hardeep Puri was asked to remove his turban during a security check at Houston, and was also kept in a ‘holding room’ for over half an hour, despite showing his diplomatic credentials.

“Secretary of State, Mrs. Hillary Clinton, has also given an indication to the fact that they are going to revisit some of these procedures, particularly with reference to diplomatic corps of other countries,” added Krishna.

The latest incident comes just two days after the US deputy chief of mission Donald Lu was summoned by New Delhi to protest against a similar ‘pat down’ of the Indian envoy Meera Shankar this month.

Lu was summoned to the Ministry of External Affairs Saturday and conveyed India’s strong concerns over the “pat down” search that Meera Shankar was subjected to at the Jackson-Evers International Airport Dec 4 after her visit as a guest of the Mississippi State University.

According to the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, Shankar was singled out from a group of 30 passengers and pulled aside. Witnesses told the paper that she was chosen as she was wearing a sari, and was patted down despite her diplomatic passport.

Krishna had described Shankar’s experience as unacceptable. We are going to take it up with the government of US that such unpleasant incidents do not recur,” the minister had told reporters outside parliament Thursday.

He had said there were “certain well-established conventions, well-established practices as to how members of diplomatic corps are treated in a given country”.

US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns had even made a personal call to Shankar to apologise for the incident.

Former Indian diplomats have reacted to the latest incident by pointing out that there should be reciprocal treatment of foreign envoys in India.

The issue is not just of diplomats, but also of our Sikh brethren, whose issue we had taken up several times, former Indian ambassador to US, Ronen Sen told Times Now television channel.

He said the security check of Puri’s turban violated the reassurances given by US authorities on sensitivity in handling religious symbols during checks. We had explained to them that a pagri (turban) that a Sikh wears is not a headgear. It is a religious symbol, which should be treated with respect, said Sen.

He urged that there should be a reciprocal (treatment) across the board. Similarly, former foreign secretary Romesh Bhandari said that reciprocity may be desirable.

Filed under: Diplomacy

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