Kalam frisked at JFK airport; US apologises
The United States has apologised to former President A P J Abdul Kalam for subjecting him to frisking at New York's JFK airport, an incident that had provoked sharp reactions from India which threatened retaliatory action.
In a written apology to Kalam and the Indian government, the US said, "Appropriate procedure for expedited screening of dignitaries had not been followed".
"We deeply regret the inconvenience that resulted for him (Kalam) as a result of the September 29 incident involving the security screening at JFK Airport in New York," a statement from the US embassy in New Delhi said, noting that it had the utmost respect for Kalam. They also said that US was actively working to prevent such incidents from occurring in the future.
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Image: Former President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam
'Such incidents are unacceptable'
Officials said the minister has also sought a detailed report on the incident from its mission into the incident which they said was "unacceptable".
The US said that subsequent to the frisking incident, US Charge d' Affairs Peter Burleigh personally hand delivered a letter from the US Transportation Security Administrator to Kalam and a similar letter was delivered to the government of India regretting the incident.
Maintaining that it "deeply values and appreciates" the strong relationship and partnership with India, the US said, "We are confident that despite this regrettable incident, we will continue working closely with India in the many areas of our strategic partnership".
Image: External Affairs Minister S M Krishna
Not the first time Kalam has been frisked in US
80-year-old Kalam was frisked in New York on September 29 before boarding an Air India flight. Sources said that even after Kalam had taken his seat in the aircraft, the US security personnel forced the crew to open the door and took away the jacket and boots of the former President to check for explosives since they had forgotten to do so before his boarding. The items were later returned to Kalam.
Sources close to Kalam said he doesn't give much thought to such incidents and never complains about them. However, this time, his office informed the Ministry of External Affairs about the incident after he returned home.This is not the first time that Kalam has been frisked by US aviation officials.
Kalam was frisked by officials of US airliner Continental Airlines in April, 2009 despite his name featuring in the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security's list of people exempt from security checks in India.
Image: The JFK airport in New York