Diplomat arrest case: Curbs cast shadow on Christmas for US diplomats

DiplomatThe families of American diplomats will have to make “alternative arrangements” for the Christmas-New Year week. (IE Photo)

With the Indian government withdrawing the facility of duty-free imports of food items and liquor in retaliation to the "ill-treatment" meted out to diplomat Devyani Khobragade, the families of American diplomats will have to make "alternative arrangements" for the Christmas-New Year week.

American employees at the US embassy in Delhi and consulates in Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and Hyderabad used to get imported food and liquor at much cheaper rates — sometimes half the market price — since they could import these items without paying taxes and duties.

The US embassy in Delhi has a full-fledged "commissary" where these items are sold to American diplomats. The consulates in Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and Hyderabad also have a similar system for making these duty-free items available to their staff. Sources said the commissary stocks luncheon meat, cheese, cold cuts, salamis, breads, pasta, antipasti, gnochhi, chocolates and even water.

"We used to get our fill of cold cuts, cheese and wine through the commissary, but now we will have to make other arrangements," an American diplomat's wife is learnt to have told her Indian friends.

However, an American diplomat said, "India is not Afghanistan or Iraq. In India, we get everything in the shopping malls and prominent markets, like Khan Market and Defence Colony in Delhi. The only thing is that they may be a bit more expensive... but we will not let this spoil our Christmas and New Year parties."

Several European diplomats have volunteered to help out, said an American diplomat. "Even a Russian colleague told me not to worry about the duty-free provisions. I think that's very sweet on their part," said another American diplomat. When contacted, Lee McManis, acting spokes-person at the US embassy, said, "We are reviewing all requests we have received from the Government of India. The US embassy in New Delhi has provided interim responses to India's diplomatic notes." He refused to elaborate further.

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