India protests envoy's 'pat down' by TSA - wants apology
Thursday 9th December, 2010 (IANS) India Thursday termed
as 'unacceptable' the 'pat down' search Indian ambassador Meera Shankar
was subjected to in the US, the second time in three months, and said it
will take up the issue with Washington. 'I am rather surprised
by the way the Indian ambassador to the US has been treated. This has
happened for a second time in three months,' External Affairs Minister
S.M. Krishna told reporters here.
'Let me be frank, this is
unacceptable to India. We are going to take it up with the government of
US that such unpleasant incidents do not recur,' said Krishna. He
added that there were 'certain well-established conventions,
well-established practices, as to how members of the diplomatic corps
are treated in a given country'. The minister pointed out that India
had a 'very cordial relationship' with the US and hoped this was taken
sources said that the external affairs ministry has sent a demarche to
the US over the issue and is expecting an apology for this
'unacceptable' behaviour by the US authorities. The ministry is
also looking for an assurance from the US that this kind of behaviour is
not repeated in the future and Indian diplomats are not subjected to
additional screenings, said the sources.
On Dec 4, Shankar was
subjected to a rigorous public 'pat down' at the Jackson-Evers
International Airport after a visit as a guest of the Mississippi State
University. According to The Jackson Clarion-Ledger, Shankar was
singled out from a group of 30 passengers and pulled aside. Witnesses
told the paper that she was chosen as she was wearing a sari.
Transportation Security Administration (TSA) guidelines do not have any
exceptions for foreign dignitaries, but officers have the discretion to
pick and choose, depending on whether they set off metal detectors, the
newspaper said. The Indian ambassador did not set off any alarms. At
the same time, TSA allows additional screenings when passengers are
wearing 'bulky' clothing.
Clarion-Ledger added that Shankar had asked for a private security
check, but she was led to clear box for the 'pat down' in public view. 'The
way they pat them down - it was so humiliating,' said Tan Tsai, a
research associate at MSU's International Security Studies Center who
witnessed the screening. 'Anybody who passed by could see it.'
office of Mississippi governor Haley Barbour said that they were
looking into the incident. 'At this time, we're trying to find out
exactly what happened - all of the details,' said the governor's
spokesperson, Dan Turner. The state Lieutenant Governor, Phil
Bryant, who had met with Shankar during her visit to the state, said
that they regretted the outrageous way she was treated.
I understand we need proper security measures to protect the passengers
in US airports, I regret the outrageous way Indian Ambassador Shankar
was treated by the TSA while visiting Jackson,' he said in an e-mail to
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