Ever since the war on terrorism was announced by the US under the presidency of George W. Bush, the American people have become sceptical of Muslims and everyone who looks like a Muslim. People have been subjected to inappropriate checks, particularly at airports. Indian people were harassed several times at airports and on board. Even Indian officials are not spared from embarrassing checking by the American airport officials.
Last year, India’s ex-President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam was frisked by the staff of Continental Airlines before he boarded a flight to the US—at an Indian airport. When India expressed its protest, Continental Airlines apologised for searching Mr Kalam.
The sari is the traditional dress of the Indian woman. It covers most of the body except the hands and face. On December 4, Indian Ambassador to the US Meera Shankar was picked out of a security line and frisked openly in front of passengers at Jackson-Evers International Airport. She had gone to Mississippi to deliver an address to a university on an invitation from the university authorities. The officials of the university accompanied her to the airport, and an airport security officer was escorting her as well. They informed the airport staff that she was the Ambassador, yet she was not spared.
The US Secretary of Homeland Security said at the time that the checking was appropriate. Some opposition parties in India demanded the government subject the US envoy to security searches on flights. After a strong protest from the Indian Foreign Minister calling the incident unacceptable, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed concern about it.
India’s UN envoy, Hardeep Puri, was asked to remove his turban at an airport in Houston, Texas, two weeks ago. When he refused to do so, he was detained in a holding room. Turban wearing is the religious tradition for Indian Sikhs who are supposed to keep all hair intact and cover it with a turban. The turban is removed only at intimate movements such as for washing hair. The Sikhs consider the turban a symbol of pride, self-respect, and piety. Foreign Minister S. M. Krishna said the matter had been taken to the US authorities.
India’s Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel faced such an uncomfortable movement in September at a Chicago airport. Former Defence Minister George Fernades and famous actor Shah Rukh Khan also experienced the same unwarranted checking previously. Normally, high-ranking officials such as envoys and ministers are immune from security checking at airports. Still, even after several incidents and apologies, the incidents continue.
WikiLeaks unearthed diplomatic cables from US envoys around the world to the US State Department, showing that US diplomats were involved in collecting secret information from foreign governments. That is nothing but espionage. It reveals that the US envoys are actually a threat to the internal security of various countries. The US’s hypocrisy and hegemonic diplomacy revealed in its diplomatic cables constitute a strong case for rejecting the US as a reliable partner of any country in the world.