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Clinton Concerned About Frisking Of Indian Ambassador

PTI 10 Dec 2010, 13:14:15 IST
Washington, Dec 9 (AFP) US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton voiced concern today about an incident where India's ambassador to Washington was frisked at an airport and vowed to try to prevent repeat incidents.

"We obviously are concerned about it," Clinton told reporters. "We will be looking into it and trying to determine both what happened and what we could do to prevent such incidents in the future."

Indian officials said their envoy to the United States, Meera Shankar, was last week pulled out of the security line at a Mississippi airport and subjected to a "rigorous pat down," despite her diplomatic status.

India said today it will lodge a diplomatic protest with the United States following the incident.In September, Shankar suffered a similar experience at a Chicago airport.PTI

In Washington, US State Department said it is looking into the last week's incident in which Indian Ambassador Meera Shankar was subject to pat down at an airport in Mississippi despite being told of her diplomatic status."We are aware of the fact that the ambassador was subject to a pat-down," the State Department spokesman P J Crowley told reporters at his daily news briefing.

"We have actually just learned about this; are looking into it ourselves," Crowley said.Crowley said there are guidelines that have been published on diplomats.

"They are subject to basic security. So everyone at the airport goes through a basic screening," he noted, adding that from a TSA standpoint they followed their normal procedures.

"It is the responsibility of the Transportation Security Administration to assess each passenger and then work each passenger through security based on what they see," he said adding as to the rationale that TSA used for this, he will let them explain it.

"It is our understanding the (Indian) Ambassador was pulled out for secondary screening, and DHS (Department of Homeland Security) has indicated they're prepared to talk about this," Crowley said.

When asked if India has lodged a formal complaint before it, Crowley said, "We have had meetings with officials from the embassy, since the incident in Mississippi. And as far as I know, they have not raised it with us yet."

Shankar was pulled from an airport security line on December 4 and patted down by an American security agent in Mississippi despite being told of her diplomatic status.

The incident took place at the Jackson-Evers International Airport where sari-clad Shankar was about to board a flight to Baltimore after attending the Mississippi State University's programme.

Shankar presented her diplomatic papers to officers and was escorted by a Mississippi Development Authority representative and an airport security officer, but witnesses said she was subjected to the hands-on search.Terming the incident as "unacceptable", External Affairs Minister S M Krishna today said the matter will be taken up with the American government.

In the past, many prominent Indians, including ministers, have faced some uncomfortable moments at US airports.

In Delhi, Foreign Secretary Nirupamam Rao said, the 'pat-down' search of Ambassador Meera Shankar at a US airport was not good public diplomacy and that it was awaiting a report from its embassy in Washington over the incident before it can take up the matter with American authorities.

"We have also asked our embassy in Washington to give us a detailed report on the incident. We haven't as yet received that, but we will be certainly looking at that before we take further action," Rao told reporters here.

Disapproving of the treatment meted out to Shankar, she said, "It wasn't good public diplomacy and we will certainly be speaking with the American embassy here".