New Delhi, Nov 13 (IANS): Former Indian President APJ Abdul Kalam was frisked by the John F. Kennedy airport authorities in New York on Sep 29, resulting in a strong Indian protest and a subsequent US apology for the breach of protocol.
Eighty-year-old Kalam, who was in the US to attend a series of events, was returning home by an Air India flight when the airport authorities boarded the aircraft to frisk the former Indian President, who had already occupied his seat.
The Air India crew immediately protested the US Transportation Security Administration's action. However, Kalam did not object and subjected himself to the security check, officials said.
External Affairs Minister SM Krishna later asked Indian Ambassador Nirupama Rao to raise the issue at the highest level in the US administration, saying it was "unacceptable" to India and that New Delhi may reciprocate the treatment to American dignitaries.
Following the protest, the US government "deeply" regretted the incident and conveyed its "utmost respect" for Kalam.
"The United States government has the utmost respect for former Indian President Abdul Kalam. We deeply regret the inconvenience that resulted for him as a result of a Sep 29 incident involving the security screening at John F. Kennedy airport in New York," the Obama administration said in its apology.
Subsequently, charge d'affaires of the US Mission in India Ambassador Peter Burleigh personally hand-delivered a letter from the US Transportation Security Administration to former President Kalam, and a similar letter was delivered to the Indian government.
In these letters, the US government extended its apology that appropriate procedures for expedited screening of dignitaries had not been followed. "We are actively working to prevent similar incidents in the future from occurring," it said.
Noting that the US "deeply values and appreciates" its "strong relationship and partnership" with India, the Obama administration said: "We are confident that despite this regrettable incident, we will continue working closely with India in the many areas of our strategic partnership."
This is the second incident of frisking of Kalam by American authorities. On April 21, 2009, the former president was boarding a Continental Airways plane at the Delhi airport when the airline authorities frisked him, clearly breaching diplomatic protocol.
A protest from India and its parliament led to the airlines and the US government apologising to Kalam later.