Oops! Uncle Sam has done it again! Former President APJ Abdul Kalam was twice subjected to frisking at New York's JFK Airport on September 29 by US security officials who even made him take off his jacket and shoes to check for explosives, sparking outrage in India, which threatened retaliatory action against US dignitaries. This is the second time the former nuclear scientist has been subjected to such treatment. In June 2009, he was frisked and forced to remove his shoes during a security check by a US airline at Delhi airport.
Back then, the government of India had cried itself hoarse and announced it would come up with a common list of dignitaries who were not to be subjected to frisking. Sadly, not much progress seems to have happened on that front. Suddenly, our authorities have been forced to sing the same old tune.
Post 9/11, the security scenario has changed not only in the United States but all across the world. Particularly, security agencies in the US seem to have become rather cynical. While US officials can check anyone in their country as the Indian exemption list is not applicable there, they perhaps should accord the same treatment we give visiting US dignitaries, like a former president of US in India.
Subjecting travellers to checking is important. But whether it is United States, India or any other country, dignitaries of Kalam's stature should not be subjected to such humiliation. Like a true gentleman, Kalam did not protest. But the incident says something about where we stand with the US. It is not an insult of an individual; it's an act that undermines a nation.
India should not only lodge a strong protest, the matter should be followed up at the highest levels and a list of dignitaries should be finalised soon. The government has to get its act right so that India is not insulted again.