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Khobragade issue: India may review immunity given to US consular staff

New Delhi, Dec 17 (PTI & Online Bureau):India has asked the US to return all ID cards issued to its consular officers posted here, even as Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde cancelled a meeting with visiting US Congressmen, ostensibly to protest the way India’s deputy consul general was humiliated in New York.

Government sources said the recall of ID cards could be a precursor to a review of immunity and benefits enjoyed by US consular officers in India, after Devyani Khobragade, an Indian Foreign Service officer posted in New York, was arrested over alleged visa fraud committed by the maid she took from India.

Home ministry officials said Shinde would not be able to meet the American delegation because he is busy in Parliament, but Shinde’s programme as of Monday evening had scheduled that meeting for 5pm Tuesday.

Officials said the meeting was cancelled on Tuesday morning.

On Monday, Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar had cancelled her meeting with the delegation as she felt it was not “appropriate” to meet the lawmakers given the treatment of one of India's senior diplomats.

National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon also dropped a scheduled meeting with the same US team.

The visiting members of Congress are George Holding (Republican, North Carolina), Pete Olson (Republican, Texas) David Schweikert (Republican, Arizona), Robert Woodall (Republican, Georgia) and Madeleine Bordallo (Democrat, Guam).

Last week, Khobragade, India’s deputy consul general in New York, was arrested and handcuffed in public allegedly because of false information furnished by her maid from India in her visa application.

Following this, India summoned US Ambassador Nancy Powell and issued a demarche.

In Washington also, the matter was taken up with the US government “forcefully” through the Indian mission.

Khobragade, 39, is an Indian Foreign Service officer of the 1999 batch.