NEW YORK/NEW DELHI: One of India’s topmost diplomats, Mr Hardeep Puri, Ambassador to the United Nations, was asked to remove his turban during an airport ‘pat-down’ search in the US in yet another incident of Indian envoys being subjected to humiliating process.
India has lodged a strong protest following the incident. Close on the heels of Indian Ambassador to the US, Ms Meera Shankar being subjected to a ‘pat-down’ search earlier this month, Mr Puri, the country’s Permanent Representative to the UN, was asked by airport officials to remove his turban during a security check at Houston airport two weeks back, sources said.
When Mr Puri refused to remove his turban, the officials made him wait for over half-an-hour in a ‘holding room.’ The matter was resolved only after a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) official accompanying Mr Puri intervened.
India has lodged an official protest with US authorities through its Consulate General in Houston, sources said in New Delhi. “I have taken it up with the US authorities and the matter is at that stage. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has also given an indication to the fact that they have to revisit some of these procedures, particularly with reference to diplomatic cover of other countries,” External Affairs Minister, Mr S M Krishna said in New Delhi when asked about these searches.
On December 4, Ms Shankar was pulled out from an airport security line and patted down by an American security agent in Mississippi despite being informed of her diplomatic status. Ms Shankar was subjected to an enhanced security pat-down at the Jackson-Evers International airport in Mississippi, ostensibly because she was dressed in a sari.
In the past, many prominent Indians, including ministers, have faced some uncomfortable moments at US airports. In September, visiting Civil Aviation Minister, Mr Praful Patel was quizzed by US immigration authorities at the O’Hare airport in Chicago after his name and date of birth matched with that of another Mr Praful Patel, who is on America’s watch-list.
In August 2009, Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan was detained and questioned at the Newark Liberty International airport. Khan was headed to Chicago for a parade to celebrate India’s Independence Day, when he was pulled aside by airport authorities for interrogation. Former defence minister, Mr George Fernandes had claimed that he was strip-searched twice at Dulles airport in the US Capital area, when he was on an official visit to Washington in early 2002 and another time while en route to Brazil in mid 2003.