US working out ways to avoid repeat of Shankar episode

Last Updated 03 May 2018, 04:59 IST

"We are in touch with the Department of Homeland Security. There may be ways in which we can improve communications so that officials at airports know when diplomats are coming and help to better facilitate their movement through security," State Department spokesman P J Crowley said at his daily news conference yesterday.
Crowley said he has been told that a formal complaint from Indian embassy is coming, but has not been received yet.

The Indian government has said that it is registering a formal complaint with the US on the last week incident during which Shankar, who was wearing a sari, was patted down at Mississippi airport. External Affairs Minister S M Krishna has termed it as unacceptable while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also expressed her concern over the incident.

Shankar, so far, has not made any comment on the December 4 incident, which was first reported by a local Mississippi newspaper only this week.

"We have been told that a formal complaint is coming. I just don't think it's arrived yet," Crowley said when asked if the State Department has received a complaint.

"As we've said, and properly so, everyone from diplomats to ordinary citizens are screened prior to boarding airplanes. That happens here. It happens around the world. But certainly, there may be ways in which we can improve coordination so that this kind of situation will not happen again," he said.

Responding to questions, Crowley said diplomats like any other passengers are subject to screening. "But to the extent that ambassadors may, in some cases, wear traditional dress, if that can help TSA (Transportation) Security Administration) with its assessment of the risk that any passenger might pose to the airplane, that may be helpful information for them to know," he said.

"As the Secretary (Clinton) said yesterday if there's a way in which we can prevent misunderstandings or help TSA anticipate whatever screening requirements might be required, we're happy to help facilitate that. We're just looking to see if there's any way that we can improve this process," he said.

"We obviously share concerns if the population in other parts of the world that has the opportunity to visit the United States for any reason is subjected to increased scrutiny because of a type of dress, obviously, that raises concerns in other countries around the world. Everyone understands that security at airports is a reality for them," Crowley said.

"That said, they want to make sure that they're treated properly, fairly, and not subjected to unusual security measures just because of who they are or how they're dressed. We understand that," he said. "But whether it's this particular incident or others that have happened earlier this year, the last thing we want to do is – we want to protect the citizens of every country who travel on our airplanes or other airplanes."

Aviation remains a primary terrorist target so everyone recognises the importance of security, but everyone has the same objective in making sure that all passengers are treated as fairly as possible, Crowley said.

"TSA has made clear that from their standpoint, their officers at the airport followed proper procedure. That said, if we can improve the communication between embassies here and TSA so that if there are any special requirements for screening, they are anticipated in advance. That might help avoid the kind of misunderstanding that happened," in Shankar's case, he said.

(Published 11 December 2010, 04:08 IST)

Follow us on