India says no to biz in US embassy

India says no to biz in US embassy

With Washington dilly-dallying on recognising Indian Foreign Service officer Devyani Khobragade’s full diplomatic immunity, New Delhi has toughened its stand and asked the US embassy here to shut down commercial activities on its premises by January 16.

The Centre is also understood to have conveyed to the US embassy that traffic violations by diplomats or consular officials would henceforth be strictly dealt with.

The Vienna Convention for Diplomatic Relation, 1961, does not provide for any commercial activity on the premises of an embassy or high commission. But, the American Community Support Association (ACSA), which was set up for the welfare of US citizens in India, has been running restaurants, a bar and a departmental store.

The facilities also included a swimming pool, bowling alley, tennis court, soccer field, beauty salon, gym and a video club.

A recent review by the government found that the ACSA was not only acquiring and selling duty free items imported by the US Embassy utilising its privilege, but was also using up the quota of diplomatic missions of other countries in New Delhi. The ACSA has so far been citing that the diplomats of other countries also availed the benefits of its facilities on the US Embassy premises. The duty free items thus acquired were sold to non-diplomatic members of the ACSA, said sources.

The government has decided against allowing the ACSA to continue with the practice. The US embassy as well as the diplomatic missions of other countries would now be allowed to import duty free items against their respective quotas individually and directly.

The ACSA was initially set up for the US diplomats and consular officials in the country. The facilities, however, were later opened not only to private US citizens but also to diplomats of other countries.

Sources said the government not only asked the US embassy to shut down commercial activities, but also furnish returns filed by it for payments received from non-diplomatic people, including the private US citizens.

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