An ongoing diplomatic scuffle between the U.S. and India has devolved into one with real-world implications, following reports Tuesday afternoon the Indian government in New Delhi has ordered the removal of security equipment around the U.S. embassy there. The move comes in retaliation for U.S. officials arresting an Indian diplomat last week in New York.
Reuters reports tow trucks and backhoes have removed the large concrete blocks used as barricades to protect the American diplomatic facility in the Indian capital city. The blocks protect the building from cars approaching at high speeds.
Police posted in the area would ensure continued security for the embassy, a government official told Reuters. Host nations are responsible for the security of visiting diplomats.
The Indian government has also stripped all airport passes from U.S. diplomats and their families, and import clearances for the embassy, according to the Times of India.
This slew of retribution stems from widespread outcry in India over the arrest of Devyani Khobragade, India's deputy consul general, on charges of visa fraud. She allegedly underpaid and exploited hired help brought to the U.S. from India, reports the Times.
Some media reports indicate the deputy consul general was strip-searched following her arrest. The State Department has so far declined to comment. Indian national security adviser reportedly called Khobragade's arrest "despicable and barbaric," according to the Guardian. The foreign minister summoned the U.S. ambassador and a string of politicians have refused to meet with a visiting delegation from the U.S. Congress.
Arun Jaitley, a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party and leader of the opposition, said Tuesday the incident "deserves to be condemned."
"The United States unilateralism in narrowing down the scope of diplomatic immunity should not be accepted by India," he wrote on his website, citing the Vienna Convention which protects diplomats against criminal action in countries where they are assigned.
"Diplomacy operates on the principle of reciprocity," he wrote. "The case of Devyani Khobragade is a pointer to the fact that government of India must now and in future act on the principle of reciprocity. If there is any infringement of any local law, be it even a municipal or state laws, by an American diplomat/consular official, we must waive off the immunity under the Vienna Conventions. Similarly, if we find the conduct of any U.S. elected representative unacceptable in our subjective opinion, we must reserve the right to reject his or her visa application."
Khobragade pleaded not guilty and was released on $250,000 bail, according to Reuters. She surrendered her passport and faces as much as 15 years in prison if convicted.
The incident and subsequent backlash exploded across social media in India. "Relatiates," "diplomat," "Devyani" and "Khogragade" were among the top Twitter terms on Tuesday afternoon, according to Trendsmap.com.