Devyani Khobragade
Delhi's fury puts Washington on back foot over Devyani Khobragade's arrestFacebook (Devyani Khobragade)

Washington has switched to the damage control mode after New Delhi, in a rare move, initiated a raft of measures against American diplomats in India over the arrest of Devyani Khobragade.

The US has stopped short of issuing an apology and has pledged to review the circumstances surrounding the arrest of the senior Indian diplomat in New York over visa fraud charges.

Khobragade, deputy consul general for political, economic, commercial and women's affairs in New York, was arrested by police and handcuffed in public. The 39-year old diplomat was later subjected to strip search and was kept in the same cell alongside other criminals.

As retaliation to the US action, New Delhi had earlier told American diplomatic staff to surrender their ID cards that grant them special privileges and had withdrawn their airport passes.

There have also been calls from politicians and diplomats to expel gay partners of American diplomats from India, as homosexuality has been re-criminalised recently.

"We understand this is a sensitive issue for India. An isolated episode not indicative of respectful ties the two countries share. We will be looking into the arrest to ensure all procedures were followed and every opportunity for courtesy was extended," said US State Department spokesperson Marie Harf.

However, Harf has insisted India was informed of an imminent arrest in September. She said: "The State Department advised the Embassy of the Republic of India in writing in September of allegations of abuse made by an Indian national against the deputy consul general of India in New York."

Khobragade was arrested on charges of committing fraud in the US visa application for her maid Sangeeta Richard. India has primarily protested against the manner in which its diplomat was treated rather than the actual charges. The arrest has been dubbed as "barbaric and despicable" by Indian authorities.

The arrest has also sparked a fierce debate in Indian parliament, where politicians from a cross-section of parties have urged the government to keep the pressure on.

"We should negotiate as equals [with the US]. We conduct our foreign policy in a manner that we can be taken for granted. We should take this incident in its seriousness. We must ensure that necessary correctives are taken. Many countries protested on US snooping, we didn't," said Arun Jaitley, leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha (Upper House).