US diplomats lose airport passes

New Delhi, Dec 19: US diplomats in India were Thursday deprived of their airport passes as part of “reciprocal” measures taken by India following the arrest and strip-search of an Indian diplomat in New York, a source said.

Three days ago, police had removed barricades outside the US embassy here.

The US embassy was informed by the external affairs ministry Tuesday that they were taking back the special privileges, which included the diplomatic ID cards given by the Indian government, airport passes that allowed US diplomats to sail through the numerous security barriers and import licences for the embassy.

The airport passes were taken back Thursday, a source told IANS.

The move comes even as US Secretary of State John Kerry Wednesday evening called National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon to express regret over the arrest and strip and cavity-search of 39-year-old Devyani Khobragade, India’s deputy consul general in New York, that has led to outrage in India.

External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid Thursday said India will take a call on whether to give back the special privileges to the US diplomats.

“Such decisions are not taken in a hurry. We will study the matter and then take a call,” Khurshid told IANS on the sidelines of an event here.

He said the decision to pare the diplomatic privileges was not done with an “intent to hurt them (US), but because we expect certain courtesies and we return them. These are courtesies, and not rights”.

India had Tuesday removed the extra police barricades around the US embassy in New Delhi while the police picket remains.

India has also asked US diplomats to inform them of the salary paid to their Indian employees.

Khobragade, accused of visa fraud and underpaying her housemaid, has denied all charges.

IANS