Govt defends steps against US embassy, says action determined by national interest

devyaniIndia on Thursday defended its retaliatory steps against the US embassy over theDevyani Khobragade issue with external affairs minister Salman Khurshid saying the government will do what was “fit and proper and in overall national interest”.

“We are not doing anything except what is appropriate under reciprocal arrangements … We will only do what is absolutely fit and proper and what is in the overall national interest,” Khurshid said.

He was reacting to US embassy being asked by the government to stop commercial activities undertaken under the aegis of the American Community Support Association (ACSA) from its premises.

India’s action comes ahead of the January 13 deadline for the indictment in New York of Devyani Khobragade, deputy consul general in New York, on visa fraud charges. India has been demanding withdrawal of charges against Khobragade, who was arrested on December 12 and later released on a bail of $250,000.

Restaurant/bar, video club, bowling alley, swimming pool, sports field, beauty parlour and gym include the activities undertaken by ACSA, which has an annual revenue that exceeds $3 million, as per information available with the government.

The US has also been asked to provide the tax returns filed by it with Indian authorities for commercial activities which are afforded through ACSA to non-diplomatic persons, including private American citizens and their families, government sources said here.

It is also understood that the government has told the US that with effect from this month, it will now only be able to directly draw upon duty free items such as alcoholic beverages and cigarettes for its own diplomatic personnel rather than quotas of diplomatic personnel of other foreign missions in Delhi on grounds that diplomats from these missions too are members of ACSA.

Government sources said previously ACSA was acquiring duty free items on behalf of about 40 missions on grounds that the membership of ACSA was drawn from other diplomatic missions.

“Henceforth, every diplomatic mission will only be allowed to import individually and directly,” the sources said.