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Now, India and US clash over Modi's Mumbai rally

24 December, 2013

Mumbai: India has rebuffed attempts by the US to raise security concerns over Gujarat CM Narendra Modi's rally in Mumbai on Sunday, saying that ensuring security was its responsibility and it was not for anyone else to determine where Indian political parties conduct their political activities, Indian media reported on Monday.

As India and the US seek to control the fallout from the Devyani Khobragade crisis, it is the issue of security which is proving to be the latest dampener.

Despite India repeatedly asserting that security of no US installation in the country has been compromised after the recent removal of barricades, US authorities raised the issue again just ahead of the rally saying its consulate had been rendered vulnerable to possible attacks by people attending the rally.

MMRDA Grounds, where Modi's rally was held, is in the same Bandra area where the US consulate is located. India conveyed to the US that expressing concern about a "legitimate political rally" by a mainstream party on the basis of "specious" security concerns was completely unacceptable. US ambassador Nancy Powell was also invited for the rally initially but the invitation was later withdrawn by BJP.

Several layers of security were provided to the US consulate in Bandraand more security staff were deployed in the area. Officials though were stunned when US security concerns on Modi's rally were communicated as part of the need to tighten security.

It is learnt that the US insisted before Indian authorities that people likely to attend the rally on Sunday could be a threat to the consulate and its officials.

Indian officials maintained throughout that the security issue raised by the US was a red herring and that the real issue in the ongoing crisis was the humiliation of an Indian diplomat and the subsequent US action to "evacuate" the family of Sangeeta Richard to New York.

India has maintained that while the removal of barricades will impact traffic movement, it will have no bearing on the security aspect and that India remained committed to Vienna conventions in this regard. The removal of barricades, it said, was a reciprocal measure and not a retaliation.

As the two countries seek a way out of the Khobragade crisis, India is also going ahead with other reciprocal measures it took after the diplomat's humiliation. US consular officials in consulates in all parts of India are to submit their identity cards by Monday.

India, it is understood, will insist that the new identity cards for consular officials and diplomats have the same language which the US has for Indian diplomats posted in consulates in the US, making it clear they will be liable to be arrested in case of contravention of Indian laws.

It is interesting that the Americans are seeking more time, beyond the December 23 deadline, to submit details about embassy staff spouses teaching in the local American School.

Indian officials believe it may be worth finding out if there are dependents of US officials who have the requisite work permits to work in India or are there any who may have fallen foul of Indian requirements. Further, issues of compliance with Indian tax requirements for dependents of non-diplomatic staff working in American schools may well come tumbling out of the closet.

In fact, those accustomed to receiving Christmas and New Year gifts from the embassy and consulates may also have to wait a little longer. US containers containing these gifts have also been held up.


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