Indian media criticise Delhi diplomacy over US row

Activists of Sanskriti Bachao Manch, or save culture forum, burn posters of U.S. President Barack Obama and U.S. flags during a demonstration to protest against the alleged mistreatment of New York based Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade, in Bhopal, India, Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013. Devyani Khobragade's arrest in the US has angered many in India

Media in India feel the government needs to pay more attention to the safety of its citizens living outside the country in the wake of a diplomat's arrest in the US.

The arrest and strip-search of deputy consul general Devyani Khobragade in New York for alleged visa fraud and underpaying her Indian maid led to reprisals from Delhi amid strong public anger.

India ordered security barricades around the US embassy in Delhi to be removed and snubbed a visiting US delegation.

The US Secretary of State, John Kerry, expressed "regret" over the incident, but papers feel India's foreign service too needs to do some introspection.

India's media outlets have mostly welcomed Delhi's response to this case but agree that such incidents are not always taken seriously.

The Hindustan Times says India has been "most cavalier when it comes to the indignities its citizens suffer abroad".

"There are many cases of Indians being harassed in the Gulf countries and facing discrimination in Western countries. Yet, India's attitude has been to leave well alone," the paper adds.

The Hindustan Times and The Hindu also cite the case of two Indian sailors released from a prison in the West African country of Togo on Thursday after a meeting between a senior Indian official and President Faure Gnassingbe of Togo.

Both papers agree that the diplomatic intervention for the release of Sunil James and Vijayan, who were arrested and charged with aiding piracy in Togo on 31 July, could have come sooner.

"The odd excuses made about not having a representative in Togo are unacceptable, India could have found ways of getting the sailors home much earlier," the Hindustan Times says.

Adds The Hindu: "The diplomatic intervention by Indian and Togolese officials came not a moment too soon."

The paper adds that the cases of Ms Khobragade and the two sailors are similar as the "Indian diplomacy has been too slow to respond to crises that were long in the making".

"India's diplomatic establishment needs to formulate a policy that deals with the concerns of Indians abroad - not just of diplomats but of sailors, businesspersons, fishermen and others," the report says.

Hindi daily Dainik Jagaran also says that India needs to protect "the honour and respect" of its citizens abroad.

Disability rights

Meanwhile, The Indian Express has criticised the early conclusion of the winter session of parliament.

"Why was it not possible for our MPs to see through even a 12-day session, packed with important legislation?" the paper asks.

Also, disabled rights activists have protested in Delhi after a bill aimed at their welfare was not tabled in the parliament, The Times of India reports.

"We are anguished over the manner in which the political class has once again treated us," the paper quotes Javed Abidi, convenor of the Disability Rights Group, as saying.

Meanwhile, telecast of Bengali television series Dusahobas (Living Difficult), written by controversial Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen, has been suspended after objections from "Muslim fundamentalists" in West Bengal state, The Indian Express reports.

The protesters claimed the show hurt religious sentiments, while Ms Nasreen defended it saying "there is not even 'R' of religion in the story", the paper reports.

And finally, a billboard dedicated to Nelson Mandela in the southern city of Coimbatore has erroneously carried the picture of Hollywood actor Morgan Freeman, reports say.

Cloth merchant Mr Chandrashekhar who funded the billboard blamed the designer for the error and promised to replace it with the picture of Mr Mandela, reported The Times of India.

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