Protesters storm Mumbai pizza outlet amid row over envoy's US arrest

US state department refuses to drop charges against Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 December, 2013, 5:03pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 December, 2013, 12:39am

Indian protesters ransacked a Dominos Pizza outlet in a Mumbai suburb yesterday, demanding a ban on US goods as officials from the two countries struggled to defuse a row 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 rage in India over the arrest and subsequent strip-search of Devyani Khobragade for visa fraud and under- payment of her housekeeper.

Police in Mumbai said they were stepping up patrols 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.

India earlier brushed aside fresh efforts by the US to defuse the row, warning Washington that "times have changed".

Diplomatic sources said Nancy Powell, the US ambassador to New Delhi, was holding talks with senior foreign ministry officials as part of efforts to resolve the crisis sparked by the December 12 arrest of Khobragade, who is India's deputy consul general at its mission in New York.

Powell's gesture came after top State Department officials called Indian counterparts for the third time in two days regarding Khobragade's arrest.

Subsequent revelations that Khobragade was stripped by US marshals and subjected to an invasive body search have caused outrage in India, whose government wants Washington to drop the case and offer an apology.

US Secretary of State John Kerry has expressed "regret" and stressed that the issue should not be allowed to derail a "vital relationship". That message was reiterated in a call by State Department number three Wendy Sherman to Indian foreign secretary Sujatha Singh.

But there were no signs yesterday that India had been placated by the calls.

"They should tender a clear apology. We will not accept this conduct against India under any circumstances," parliamentary affairs minister Kamal Nath said. "The US has to understand that the world has changed, times have changed and India has changed."

The ruling Congress party has taken a hard line in the row ahead of elections scheduled for May.