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We're still friends, says Indian minister after row with US

US State Secretary John Kerry meets with Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid for a bilateral meeting during the 68th United Nations General Assembly, in New York, September 25, 2013
US State Secretary John Kerry meets with Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid for a bilateral meeting during the 68th United Nations General Assembly, in New York, September 25, 2013

India wants to ensure the furore over the arrest and strip-search of a female diplomat in New York does not do lasting harm to its "valuable relationship" with the US, its foreign minister said Thursday.

"I can't believe that either side wants to put at risk a very valuable relationship in which we have made an enormous investment," Salman Khurshid told India's CNN-IBN network.

"Things happen between friends, even things that are terrible.

"The whole thing about friendship is that it survives, survives the test of this nature."

Khurshid was speaking the day after US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with India's National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon to try to ease tensions sparked by last Thursday's arrest of New York-based diplomat Devyani Khobragade.

The 39-year-old, who is now free on bail, was detained over allegations that she paid a domestic worker a fraction of the minimum wage and lied about the employee's salary in a visa application.

Her arrest and subsequent revelations that she was strip-searched have caused outrage in India. It prompted the government to take a series of reprisals, including the removal of protective barricades outside the American embassy in New Delhi.

In an email to colleagues Khobragade wrote that she was repeatedly strip-searched and then subjected to a cavity search.

However Preet Bharara, the US federal prosecutor handling her case, has insisted Khobragade was arrested in the "most discreet" way possible, was never handcuffed and was searched by a female deputy marshal in private.

Khurshid, who on Wednesday pledged to bring Khobragade back home at any price, reiterated his criticism at what he called the "irrational and unacceptable behaviour" of US authorities and voiced a sense of hurt.

"When the emotions run high, when there is a sense of hurt...then obviously you are called upon to do a little more than you'd do in normal times," he said.

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