Obama's state department to Indian officials: Show us your papers (updated - US apologizes)
Mr. Obama's trip to India may not be the great diplomatic success that the administration was hoping for. Our friends in the world's most populous democracy are getting steamed over the state department's heavy handed tactics. High ranking officials from the state of Maharashtra were invited to an event at the Taj Mahal hotel with Mr. Obama, but were told that they would have to show their papers to get in. According to The Times of India:
Miffed by the US consulate demanding personal details like birth date, nationality and passport number, Maharashtra's top politicians and bureaucrats have decided to pay it back in the same currency. While the home minister and the home secretary have declined to attend an event graced by President Barack Obama, four others, including chief minister Ashok Chavan and deputy chief minister Chhagan Bhujbal, are mulling the same.
"We are shocked over the tone of the invitation letter. (US consul general Paul) Folmsbee expects Chavan and Bhujbal to produce their identity cards before entering the venue. They have been asked to submit their details like date of birth, nationality, passport and PAN to the consulate," said a senior official on condition of anonymity. "We feel this is no way to treat the chief minister of a state. Chavan and Bhujbal are undecided on whether to attend the event."
When consulted on the matter by a Maharashtra official, Sunil Lal, the chief protocol officer with New Delhi's Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said that the private event was arranged by the U.S. consulate without consulting either the MEA or the state government and that "Under such circumstances, it was felt that Chavan and Bhujbal should not attend." The final decision has been left up to the chief minister.
For an administration that has made such an issue with law enforcement officials in Arizona asking for papers, it seems awfully hypocritical for them to demand that high ranking state officials of a sovereign nation (which is graciously hosting their large entourage) to produce their papers. Will Indian customs officials be asking Mr. Obama for his papers?
Update: The US consul-general in Mumbai has apologized
The Indian news site Sify reports: