The US today expressed regret over the arrest and strip-search of senior Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade and said this "isolated" incident should not hurt "close and vital" bilateral ties.

Secretary of State John Kerry called up National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon and expressed regret over the treatment meted out to Khobragade, the Consul General in New York, last week for alleged visa fraud, a State Department statement said, trying to quell the escalating diplomatic stand-off with India over the incident.

"In his conversation with National Security Advisor Menon, he expressed his regret, as well as his concern that we not allow this unfortunate public issue to hurt our close and vital relationship with India," the State Department said in a statement after the telephonic conversation between Kerry and Menon.

Kerry, lending a personal touch, told Menon that "as a father of two daughters about the same age as Devyani Khobragade, the Secretary empathises with the sensitivities we are hearing from India about the events that unfolded after Ms. Khobragade’s arrest".

"The Secretary understands very deeply the importance of enforcing our laws and protecting victims, and, like all officials in positions of responsibility inside the US Government, expects that laws will be followed by everyone here in our country," the State Department said.

Kerry said it is "particularly important" that foreign diplomats serving in the United States are accorded respect and dignity "just as we expect our own diplomats should receive overseas", according to the statement.

Separately, the White House said "this isolated episode is not indicative of close and mutually respectful ties we share".

India has strongly contested the allegations and protested against the arrest, hand-cuffing and strip-search of Khobragade by American law enforcement authorities in New York last week that has created an outrage in India and drew reprisal actions from New Delhi.

(This article was published on December 19, 2013)
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