Suggesting that Khan was not “detained”, but “simply delayed”, State Department spokesperson Mark Toner told reporters Friday: “I wouldn’t necessarily look at this as some sort of pattern but rather two separate incidents.”
“Obviously, we’ve expressed our regret about the incident and recognize that he’s a very renowned artist and humanitarian,” he said.
Toner also sought to paint the detaining of Khan at New York’s White Plains airport on Thursday when he arrived to receive the prestigious Chubb fellow award at Yale University as a “delay”, saying “he was temporarily delayed before admission” to the US.
However, he dismissed the suggestion that it was racial profiling. “I mean, I think we all know that that’s clearly not the case. The fact of the matter is tens of thousands of Muslims travel to and from the United States every day and are not detained or delayed.”
The spokesperson was hard put to explain the “reasons for delay” acknowledging that only Khan was not allowed to disembark from the plane when he arrived on a private jet with Nita Ambani, wife of Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani.
Both the Indian ministry of external affairs as well as the Indian Embassy in Washington have expressed their concern over Khan’s detention for the second time in less than three years, he said.
In August 2009 too, Khan was detained at New Jersey’s Newark airport.
Toner also suggested that to avoid such incidents “travellers can alert – identify their status before they depart via the embassy. And that’s one approach or avenue to take.”
Meanwhile, Yale University also sought to play down the incident. “As SRK himself would tell you, what is most important in his movies is how they end rather than how they begin,” assistant secretary George Joseph stated.
“And yesterday, things began in an unfortunate manner, but ended in a way that left everyone happy.”