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India-US tension: Indian top officials refuse to meet US delegation

18 December, 2013

New Delh: Indian ruling party Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi and Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde on Tuesday refused to meet a US Congress delegation amid an escalating row over Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade who was reportedly subjected to a humiliating strip search and kept in a cell with drug addicts after her arrest for alleged visa fraud in New York last week.

Indian National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon has described Ms Khobragade's treatment as "despicable and barbaric."

Ms Khobragade has refused to comment on this, but the new revelations have escalated the diplomatic row between India and the US over her arrest. Government sources have said that India is considering taking "reciprocal steps" later today, "to convey a clear message that this treatment of the diplomat is unacceptable."

Ms Khobragade's father Uttam Khobragade, a former IAS officer, says he will meet External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid today to take up the matter. "My daughter is brave, but I'm worried. There's more than what meets the eye," he told NDTV.

Yesterday, Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar and National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon had cancelled meetings in Delhi with a visiting US Congressional delegation.

Sources said senior officials in the Ministry had urged Mr Khurshid to cancel his meeting with the US team too, but the minister chose to meet them and convey India's displeasure.

Ms Khobragade, 39, was arrested on Thursday on the street while she was dropping her daughter to school and was handcuffed in public. She was later released on a $250,000 bail. She has been accused of lying on the visa application for an Indian national who worked at her home from November to June for less than four dollars an hour.

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