Devyani effect: Delhi targets US Embassy, removes barricades and recalls ID cards

US EmbassySecurity barriers being removed from outside US Embassy in Delhi

In unusually muscular retaliation for the alleged harsh treatment of its deputy consul-general in New York, India Tuesday moved on multiple fronts to squeeze American diplomats in the country, suddenly jolting friendly ties between New Delhi and Washington.

US consulate staff and their families were asked to return their diplomatic ID cards; details were sought of Indians employed in the consulates, along with their bank accounts and PAN numbers, as also names and salaries of teachers employed at US embassy schools; import duty waivers, including permits to bring in liquor, were withdrawn; and in a move that raised eyebrows, security barricades outside the US Embassy in Delhi were removed.

India, sources said, was outraged and decided to take the drastic steps after New Delhi learnt details of the alleged "indignities" its diplomat Devyani Khobragade underwent after she was arrested last week for alleged visa fraud involving a maid she had taken from India.

They said India had strongly conveyed to the US that the manner of Khobragade's arrest was unacceptable.

The surprise measures also seemed to have a political undercurrent as they came months before the Lok Sabha elections, indicating that the UPA government, which has been accused by the BJP of being soft on provocations from foreign powers, was under pressure to act tough.

The Indian backlash drew a quick response from the State Department late on Tuesday, with Washington promising that it was examining the allegations.

"The United States and India enjoy a broad and deep friendship, and this isolated episode is not indicative of the close and mutually respectful ties we share," State Department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf said.

"We understand that this is a sensitive issue for many in India. Accordingly, we are looking into the intake procedures surrounding this arrest to ensure that all appropriate procedures were followed and every opportunity for courtesy was extended.

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