An employee enters the Dominos Pizza outlet after it was
ransacked by the activists of Republican Party of India.
Indian protesters ransacked a Dominos Pizza outlet in a
Mumbai suburb, demanding a ban on US goods as officials from
the two countries tried to defuse a dispute over the arrest of
an Indian diplomat in New York.
Police and the Indian franchise of the US chain said no one
was hurt in the attack, which came amid unrelenting rage in
India over the arrest and subsequent strip-search of Devyani
Khobragade for visa fraud and under-payment of her
India has demanded that the charges be dropped against the
diplomat. Her father threatened to begin a fast if US
authorities press ahead with the case.
Police in Mumbai said they were stepping up patrolling of
major US outlets including McDonald's after workers of the
small Republican Party of India attacked the Dominos store.
The group sent pictures to media organisations showing a
broken glass door.
"The fact is that (the) American authorities have behaved
atrociously with an Indian diplomat. And obviously, America
has to make good for its actions," said Manish Tiwari,
India's minister for information and broadcasting.
"So therefore, I think it is a legitimate expectation, that
if they have erred, and they have erred grievously in this
matter, they should come forth and apologise."
In a possible sign of a way out of the crisis, the United
Nations said it received an official request from India to
accredit Khobragade as a member of that country's permanent
U.N. mission in what appeared to be a move to give her a
stronger form of diplomatic immunity.
US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki, however, said any
change in the diplomat's accreditation status would not
provide a "clean slate from past charges."
Asked whether diplomatic immunity could prevent Khobragade
from being arrested again or enable her to leave the United
States - a possible solution to the matter - Psaki said, "I
don't want to speculate on that."
She side-stepped a question as to whether the United States
would apologise to India over the matter but underscored the
importance of US-Indian relations.
"We certainly fully agree that it's important to preserve and
protect our partnership. It's not just about diplomatic
ties," Psaki told reporters, citing more than $90 billion in
bilateral trade, close counterterrorism cooperation and
engagement on a range of topics including Afghanistan.
"And we want to move beyond this, and I think we all
recognize the importance of our long-term relationship,"
US Secretary of State John Kerry expressed regret over the
case in a phone call to India's national security adviser
this week, but US prosecutors have defended the investigation
against Khobragade and her treatment.
Khobragade was arrested last week and released on $250,000
bail after giving up her passport and pleading not guilty to
charges of visa fraud and making false statements about how
much she paid her housekeeper. She faces a maximum of 15
years in prison if convicted on both counts.
The US Justice Department confirmed that Khobragade was
strip-searched after her arrest. A senior Indian government
source has said the interrogation also included a cavity
search, although US officials have denied this.
"I want these false and fabricated charges to be dropped,"
said Uttam Khobragade, the diplomat's father, adding that he
would go on a hunger strike if his demands aren't met. "That
will be my last option."
Protesters also gathered at the US consulate in Hyderabad for
a second day on Friday, shouting slogans, local media said.
Furious that one of its foreign service officers had been
handcuffed and treated like "a common criminal", India on
Tuesday removed security barriers outside the US embassy in
New Delhi and withdrew some privileges from US diplomats.
But the reaction in India was even more intense because none
of the political parties preparing for next year's general
election wanted to be seen as weak against a superpower.
Politicians, including the leaders of the two main parties,
refused to meet a delegation of visiting US lawmakers.
"Because of the election, they will try to outdo each other,"
said Neerja Chowdhury, a political analyst and a former
political editor of Indian Express newspaper.
"They don't want to be seen as weak on the issue when the
mood in the country is one of huge anger about this."
The party that runs India's most populous state, Uttar
Pradesh, urged Khobragade to stand for parliament,
highlighting how public outrage has turned the case into a
battleground for votes.