WASHINGTON - The United States voiced regret to India on Wednesday over the treatment of a diplomat whose account of being stripped and cavity-searched triggered outrage.
With New Delhi vowing to "restore the dignity" of diplomat Devyani Khobragade, Indian media reported that the 39-year-old was being moved from her post as deputy consul general in New York to the UN mission in a bid to thwart her prosecution.
As India retaliated against American diplomats in the usually US-friendly country, Secretary of State John Kerry tried to end the row in a telephone call to India's national security adviser Shivshankar Menon.
"As a father of two daughters about the same age as Devyani Khobragade, the secretary empathizes with the sensitivities we are hearing from India about the events that unfolded after Ms Khobragade's arrest," a State Department statement said.
Speaking to Menon, Kerry "expressed his regret, as well as his concern that we not allow this unfortunate public issue to hurt our close and vital relationship with India," it said.
State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said it was "particularly important to Secretary Kerry that foreign diplomats serving in the United States are accorded respect and dignity just as we expect our own diplomats should receive overseas."
Khobragade was arrested on December 12 in New York for allegedly paying a domestic worker a fraction of the minimum wage and for lying about the employee's salary in a visa application. She is free on bail.
The fury in India grew after an email from Khobragade in which the diplomat said she had been repeatedly stripped and cavity-searched by the US authorities after her detention.
"I must admit that I broke down many times as the indignities of repeated handcuffing, stripping and cavity searches, swabbing, in a hold-up with common criminals and drug addicts were all being imposed upon me despite my incessant assertions of immunity," she said in the email.
"I got the strength to regain composure and remain dignified, thinking that I must represent all of my colleagues and my country with confidence and pride."