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White House seeks to cool tempers over Indian envoy's arrest

The White House has moved to calm the furore over the arrest of an Indian diplomat in New York. New Delhi reacted furiously to the news the diplomat was strip-searched after she was picked up by police.

US Secretary of State John Kerry called India's National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon on Wednesday to "express his regret" over the handling of Devyani Khobragade's arrest last Thursday, according to US State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf.

"As a father of two daughters about the same age as Devyani Khobragade, the Secretary empathizes with the sensitivities we are hearing from India about the events that unfolded after Ms. Khobragade's arrest," Harf said in a written statement.

According to Khobragade, those "events" included repeated strip-searching, hand-cuffing and cavity searches. The US Marshals service confirmed on Tuesday that Khobragade had been strip-searched, as per the treatment for other prisoners after arrest.

Khobragade was reportedly arrested by police as she was dropping her daughter off at school. She is free on bail after posting a $250,000 (181,000 euros) bond and surrendering her passport, having been charged with submitting false information in a visa application and underpaying an employee.

India's government responded by

removing protective concrete barriers from outside the US embassy

in New Delhi on Tuesday, while it also demanded an unconditional apology and withdrew all airport clearance passes and identity cards for US consular officials.

Prior to his call from Kerry, Menon said the treatment of Khobragade was "despicable and barbaric."

White House talks of 'broad and deep friendship'

The matter was also addressed by White House spokesman Jay Carney, who said the incident did not reflect the relationship between the two nations. He, like Kerry, promised the arrest be investigated.

"The United States and India enjoy a broad and deep friendship and this isolated episode is not indicative of the close and mutually respectful ties that we share," Carney said.

"We understand that this is a sensitive issue for many in India, and we are looking into the intake procedures surrounding this arrest, to ensure that all standard procedures were followed and that every opportunity for courtesy was extended."

According to Harf, Kerry had also stressed he believed in “enforcing our laws and protecting victims.”

ph/ipj (AP, Reuters, AFP)

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