Indian outrage at the strip-searching of a consular official in New York deepened further on Wednesday as the government promised to "restore the dignity" of the diplomat while taking a series of retaliatory measures against US embassy staff.
Devyani Khobragade, 39, was arrested in New York earlier this month and accused of submitting false documents in an application for her housekeeper to live and work in the US as well as paying her below minimum wage. Ms Khoragade, a deputy consul-general, wrote an email, published yesterday in India, detailing her treatment at the hands of US marshals.
"I broke down many times as the indignities of repeated handcuffing, stripping and cavity searches, swabbing, in a holdup with common criminals and drug addicts were all being imposed upon me despite my incessant assertions of immunity," she wrote. Arun Jaitely, the leader of the opposition in India's upper house of parliament, demanded that the government register its "strongest protest" with the US for the "lack of respect" shown to the country.
According to the Times of India, Ms Khoragade has now been transferred to India's UN mission in New York to give her full diplomatic immunity. New Delhi also announced a review of how much US diplomats were paying their own domestic staff in India. They rescinded ID cards that carried privileges such as access to VIP airport lounges, withdrew licences that allowed the US Embassy shop to import duty-free alcohol and removed the traffic barricades near the embassy. Salman Khurshid, the Indian foreign minister, pledged to "restore the dignity" of Ms Khoragade.
US prosecutors say she had claimed on visa application documents that she paid her Indian maid $4,500 per month, but that she actually paid her less than $3 per hour. The US Marshals Service confirmed that it had strip-searched Ms Khobragade and placed her in a cell with other female defendants, saying the measures were "standard arrestee intake procedures". If convicted, Ms Khobragade faces a maximum sentence of 10 years for visa fraud and five years for making a false declaration. She has pleaded not guilty and plans to challenge the arrest on the grounds of diplomatic immunity.
But a State Department spokesman said Ms Khobragade did not have full diplomatic immunity, but consular immunity from the jurisdiction of US courts only with respect to acts performed in the exercise of consular functions.