India denies payback was motive for US policeman's arrest

WASHINGTON (AFP) - A New York police officer's arrest in India has sparked accusations of revenge over the detention last year of an Indian diplomat in New York, but India said on Saturday there is no connection.

The police officer, identified as Manny Encarnacion, was detained at the airport in New Delhi after bullets were found in his luggage, a violation of Indian laws against firearms.

US lawmaker Peter King, who represents New York in Congress, expressed "grave concern" over the arrest, in a letter dated April 4 sent to the State Department.

In the letter, which was posted in full on CBS New York's web site, King said the arrest "is clearly politically motivated in response to the arrest of India's then-Deputy Consul General in December 2013 in New York for alleged visa fraud." That incident, in which Devyani Khobragade was detained and strip-searched in New York on charges of underpaying her servant, sparked outrage in India and has created a bitter rift between the usually friendly countries.

According to media reports, Encarnacion was told by the arresting officer in New Delhi that New York police "like to strip-search our diplomats." But India's diplomatic representation in New York Saturday released a statement flatly denying there was any link between the two arrests.

In a statement, India's consulate general "dismissed as ridiculous suggestions that there was any connection between the detention of a NYPD (New York Police Department) official in New Delhi and the arrest of an Indian diplomat in New York." It added that the police official "was released on bail immediately and is currently in India awaiting a court date to resolve the case." The US State Department confirmed Friday they were aware of the situation and providing the detained American with consular services, but declined to give any details, citing privacy concerns.

Spokeswoman Marie Harf re-affirmed that India remains a "close partner" to the US, and said, referring to the row over Khobragade's detention, "we feel like we've moved past this and hope the Indians have as well." New York Police Commissioner William Bratton said the NYPD was "currently working with the State Department in an effort to resolve this situation."

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