US Secretary of State John Kerry has expressed regret over the alleged ill-treatment of an Indian diplomat arrested in New York, in an attempt to head off a crisis that rocked the ties between the two countries and made global headlines.
Kerry spoke to India's National Security Adviser Menon, expressing "his regret, as well as his concern that we will not allow this unfortunate public issue to hurt our close and vital relationship with India," a state department statement said.
Meanwhile India stuck to its tough line by moving Devyani Khobragade, who was arrested on 12 December on visa fraud charges, to its permanent United Nations mission in order to ensure full diplomatic immunity for her.
Earlier, India's response to the public arrest and humiliation had assumed a serious tone after it was revealed that the 39-year-old diplomat was stripped and subjected to a cavity search, handcuffed in public and thrown into a cell with drug peddlers and other criminals.
Kerry told Menon, who had earlier termed the arrest a barbaric and detestable act, he empathised with the sensitivities of the case in India. At the same time, he also stressed the importance of enforcing the laws and protecting victims.
The secretary said he, "like all officials in positions of responsibility inside the US government, expects that laws will be followed by everyone here in our country."
Khobragade was arrested on charges that she committed fraud by fudging the visa application for her Indian maid, Sangeeta Richards, and that she was paying the maid less than the minimum wage stipulated under US visa requirements.
Public anger had swelled in India over the arrest and harsh treatment of Khobragade and the government responded by stripping US diplomats in India of their special rights and withdrawing their ID cards. Indian authorities also removed security barricades around the US embassy in New Delhi.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the arrest and ill-treatment of Khobragade was deplorable, while prime ministerial candidates Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi cancelled scheduled meetings with US officials.
Senior Indian diplomats and politicians stood by Khobragade, who denied the allegations, and demanded the government reciprocate with equally harsh measures against the US. There were even calls to use India's infamous law criminalising homosexuality and throw the gay partners of US diplomatic officials out of the country.
The US Marshals Service has defended the action, releasing a statement: "Yes, Devyani Khobragade was subject to the same search procedures as other USMS arrestees held within the general prisoner population in the Southern District of New York."
Meanwhile, the Indian media reported that Kerry will speak to India's External Affairs Minister, Salman Khurshid. "Will have word with Kerry on Thursday evening. This matter should be resolved. We will do whatever more is needed to be done," Khurshid said, according to IBN Live.