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India asks US to stop commercial activities in embassy premises

Updated: 2014-01-08 16:15
( Xinhua)

NEW DELHI - India on Wednesday asked the US to stop all commercial activities and shut down a club on its embassy premises in its national capital by January 16, in an apparent escalation of the ongoing diplomatic stand-off between the two countries over the arrest of an Indian woman diplomat in New York last year on charges of visa fraud and underpaying her maid, sources said.

"No commercial activities will be allowed on the US Embassy premises in the Indian capital. The club, which has a bar and a swimming pool inside the mission, has been told to shut down as often outsiders get in, which is a clear violation of the Vienna Convention. The police have also been asked to deal strictly with any traffic violation by embassy vehicles," the sources said.

The diplomatic row triggered after Devyani Khobragade, India's deputy consul general in New York, was arrested and strip-searched in December last year on accusations of visa fraud and underpaying her maid, two charges which carry a punishment of up to 15 years in jail. Currently on bail, she denies any wrongdoing.

Though New Delhi has demanded an apology from the US over the incident, but Washington has so far refused to drop the charges against the 39-year-old diplomat, saying that she did not enjoy full diplomatic immunity as she was a consular officer at the time of her arrest. She was subsequently shifted to India's permanent mission in the United Nations, thus ensuring full diplomatic immunity to her.

India had earlier retaliated by scaling down the privileges of US diplomats posted in the South Asian country and even removed the security barricades outside the American Embassy.

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