Image: Meera Shankar
Mick Bullock  /  AP
Indian Ambassador Meera Shankar, 60, is shown Friday before a meeting in Jackson, Miss. Shankar was patted down Saturday by a female Transportation Security Administration agent before boarding a flight at the Jackson-Evers International Airport, witnesses said.
updated 12/9/2010 11:43:48 AM ET 2010-12-09T16:43:48

India's foreign minister said Thursday it was unacceptable that the country's ambassador to the United States was patted down by a security agent at a Mississippi airport, and said he would complain to Washington.

The ambassador, Meera Shankar, was returning from giving a speech at Mississippi State University last week when she was pulled out of line at the airport and given a pat down by a female Transportation Security Administration agent.

The Clarion-Ledger newspaper of Jackson, Miss. quoted witnesses as saying Shankar, who was wearing a sari, was told she was singled out for additional screening because of her dress.

Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna said this was the second time the ambassador had been singled out for a pat down in the past three months.

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"Let me be very frank that this is unacceptable to India," he said. "We are going to take it up with the government of United States, and I hope that things could be resolved so that such unpleasant incidents do not recur."

A TSA spokesman said diplomats were not exempt from the searches, and that bulky clothing could prompt a pat down.

Karan Singh, a former Indian ambassador to the U.S., said if Shankar was singled out because of her clothing, the incident needs to be condemned. "I think she deserves an apology," he said.

While the TSA has garnered criticism for its new security measures, including body scanners and pat downs, the controversy is especially emotive in India, where issues of modesty and status often collide with increasingly stringent airport security.

Last year, India was scandalized when former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam was told to remove his shoes and was scanned by a metal detector before boarding a flight to the United States.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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