(Reuters) – Indian authorities removed concrete security barriers in front of the U.S. embassy in New Delhi on Tuesday in apparent retaliation for the arrest and allegedly heavy-handed treatment of an Indian diplomat in New York.
New Delhi police used tow trucks and a backhoe loader to drag away long concrete blocks from roads running past the embassy and leading up to gates of the compound, a Reuters witness said. The barriers had prevented vehicles approaching at high speeds.
Police and government officials refused to respond to repeated requests for comment on why the embassy barricades were taken away. But Indian television networks, citing unnamed sources, reported that the removal was one of several retaliatory measures that India planned to take.
A senior government official, who asked not to be named, said police posted in the area would ensure continued security.
“We take the security of all diplomatic missions in India very seriously. Check posts are provided. This is only an issue related to traffic flows,” the official said.
As the dispute over the diplomat’s treatment grew, several top politicians, including the leaders of the two main political parties and the national security adviser, refused to meet a delegation of U.S. lawmakers visiting India this week.
India’s National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon branded as “barbaric” the treatment of the diplomat, who according to Indian media was handcuffed upon arrest last week and strip-searched before being released on bail.
Devyani Khobragade, India’s deputy consul general in New York, was arrested on Thursday for allegedly underpaying her nanny and committing visa fraud to get her into the United States.
Khobragade, who was released on $250,000 bail after pleading not guilty to the charges and surrendering her passport, faces a maximum of 15 years in jail if convicted on both counts.
India has become a close trade and security partner of the United States over the past decade, but the two countries have not totally overcome a history of ties marked by distrust.
“Everything that can be done will be done I assure you. We take this thing very seriously,” India’s Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid told news network CNN-IBN.
“We have put in motion what we believe will be an effective way of addressing this issue, but also put in motion such steps that we believe need to be taken to protect her dignity.”
Indian television networks said the other steps included checking the salaries paid by U.S. embassy staff to domestic helpers and withdrawing consular identification cards and privileges such as access to airport lounges for some U.S. diplomats and their families.
India’s foreign ministry and the U.S. embassy said they were unable to comment on the media reports.. see more