NEW DELHI/NEW YORK - Indian police removed concrete security barriers outside the US Embassy in New Delhi on Tuesday in apparent retaliation for the treatment of an Indian diplomat who was strip-searched after her arrest in New York last week.
The diplomatic spat was triggered by the Dec. 12 arrest of Devyani Khobragade, a deputy consul general at the Indian Consulate in New York, on charges of visa fraud and making false statements.
On Tuesday, New Delhi police used tow trucks and a backhoe loader to drag away long concrete blocks from roads running past the embassy and leading up to gates of the compound, a Reuters witness said.
The low barriers had prevented vehicles from approaching the compound at high speeds and were presumably designed to help protect the embassy against attack from suicide bombers.
The embassy has multiple layers of security and is also protected by a high wall.
Indian police and government officials declined repeated requests for comment on why the barricades were taken away, but Indian television networks, citing unnamed sources, said their removal was one of several retaliatory measures India planned.
In Washington, the US State Department said it had told the Indian government at a "high" level that Washington expects New Delhi to protect its embassy and stressed it did not want the incident with the Indian diplomat to hurt bilateral ties. "We understand there are sensitive issues involved here," said State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf. "We don't want this to negatively impact our bilateral relationship."
A senior Indian official, who asked not to be named, said police posted in the area would ensure continued security. "We take the security of all diplomatic missions in India very seriously. Checkposts are provided. This is only an issue related to traffic flows," the official said.