India on Saturday summoned the U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission, Donald Lu, following the pat down incident at a Mississippi airport involving Ambassador to the U.S. Meera Shankar on December 4.
Ministry of External Affairs Joint Secretary (Americas) Javed Ashraf told Mr. Lu that India respected the privileges of foreign diplomats and extended diplomatic courtesies to them. But “such incidents naturally lead to calls for review of privileges and facilities given in India.”
The American diplomat was also told that the Indian mission in Washington had followed the State Department guidelines for expedited clearance for Ambassadors. Ms. Shankar was escorted by a U.S. Transport Security Administration (TSA) official and she presented her diplomatic identity card. However, she had to “undergo an enhanced security check, because, as we have been informed, she was wearing a sari.”
Conveying India's strong concern over the screening of Ms. Shankar at the Jackson-Evers, Mr. Ashraf reminded Mr. Lu of External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna terming such incidents unacceptable.
“It was contrary to the normal diplomatic practice and inconsistent with the excellent relations that India and the U.S. enjoy,” Mr. Krishna had added.
Mr. Ashraf told Mr. Lu: “We understand and respect every country's security procedures, but we also expect that normal diplomatic privileges and courtesies are extended to Ambassadors and our diplomats. We expect that the State Department and the TSA would sensitise all its agents at all airports to cultural and religious sensitivities of foreign diplomats.”
The summoning comes a day after the spokesperson of the Indian Embassy in Washington, Virandar Paul, told PTI that the U.S. State Department regretted what had happened.
There was no corroboration of Mr. Paul's assertion from the available transcripts. His State Department counterpart, P.J. Crowley, had said: “It is our understanding that the Ambassador was pulled out for secondary screening, and the Department of Homeland Security has indicated that they're prepared to talk about this.”
Asked about the incident during a press conference with the Nigerian Foreign Minister, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said: “We are obviously concerned about it. We will be certainly looking into it and trying to determine what had happened and what we could do to prevent such incidents in the future.”