Indian authorities said the frisking of Shankar was in breach of international diplomatic norms [GALLO/GETTY]
The frisking of Meera Shankar, India’s ambassador to the US, by security officials at an airport in Mississippi has sparked a wave of outrage in India.
Slamming US staff for what New Delhi said is breaking diplomatic norms, leaders from across the Indian political spectrum have unanimously condemned the incident which occurred at the weekend.
Deeming it an unacceptable gesture, Somanahalli Mallaiah Krishna, India’s external affairs minister, said on Thursday that the matter would be taken up before US officials to prevent a recurrence of such incidents.
“This is unacceptable to India,” Krishna said. “We are going to take it up with the government of United States. I hope that things would be resolved so that such unpleasant incidents do not recur.”
A spokesman for the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said that diplomats were not exempt from searches and that Shankar “was screened in accordance with TSA’s security policies and procedures”.
Shankar was patted down by a US security agent at the Jackson-Evers International Airport in Mississippi on December 4.
The incident took place when Shankar was about to board a flight to Baltimore after attending an international studies programme at Mississippi State University.
A Jackson police officer, who escorted Shankar to the airport, informed airport police that Shankar was an ambassador
Shankar was taken to a VIP waiting room but she was later pulled from a security line and patted down by a female TSA agent.
Those who witnessed the ambassador’s screening alleged that officials had singled out Shankar because she was dressed in a sari, the traditional Indian drape.
Lashing out at the “strange” security checks conducted by US officials, Karan Singh, a senior federal politician, demanded an apology from the concerned department for the alleged discrimination.
“The security checks are very strange and random sometimes. They pull out people without any particular reason,” Singh said.
“But if it is a discrimination because what she was wearing, then that certainly needs to be condemned and I am sure that a suitable apology will come either from the state department or from the department concerned.”
Venkaiah Naidu, senior leader of India’s main opposition, the Bharatiya Janata Party said the incident would tarnish the prestige and reputation of the US.
“America should understand the sensitivities and also the necessities. While dealing with people of other countries and dignitaries and all, they should be extra careful,” Naidu said.
“This sort of attitude is not going to enhance the prestige of the United States of America.”