18 dec 2013
Devyani Khobragade case: US expresses regret over handling of diplomat’s arrest
New Delhi\Washington: The United States has expressed regret over the treatment meted out to Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade who was arrested last week in New York for alleged visa fraud. Ms Khobragade was handcuffed, strip-searched and put in a cell with criminals following her arrest.
- US Secretary of State John Kerry called up India’s National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon on Wednesday and “expressed his regret, as well as his concern that we not allow this unfortunate public issue to hurt our close and vital relationship with India.”
- In what is being viewed as US’ efforts to defuse this unprecedented diplomatic crisis between the two countries, Wendy Sherman, its Under Secretary for Political Affairs also spoke to India’s Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh on the matter. Government sources have described both conversations as positive and conciliatory.
- Secretary Kerry’s call comes after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh condemned the treatment meted out to the 39-year-old senior consular officer as “deplorable”.
- In a strong statement, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid on Wednesday vowed to “bring back the woman diplomat arrested in New York and restore her dignity. I will do it at any cost.”
- India has, in fact, transferred Ms Khobragade, who was posted as the Deputy Consul General at the Indian consulate in New York, to the permanent mission to United Nations in New York where she can apply for full immunity. The US State Department has to issue a new identity card that would give her this immunity.
- Sources say New Delhi wants its diplomat’s case to be moved from criminal to civil as it feels the alleged visa fraud makes for a civil breach of contract and not a human trafficking charge.
- After details of Ms Khobragade’s arrest became public, an outraged India pared down the privileges of American diplomats and removed police barricades from outside their embassy in Delhi.
- Following the reprisal measures, White House spokesperson Jay Carney said on Wednesday that the US had told Indian officials that it expected New Delhi would “fulfill all its obligations,” for the safety and security of US diplomats in India.
- Ms Khobragade was handcuffed on the street when she was dropping her daughter off to school last Thursday. After her arrest, she was allegedly treated like a hardened criminal. Her lawyer told NDTV, “There was an embarrassing failure of US international protocol and error of judgement.”
- The US has accused Ms Khobragade of lying on the visa application for an Indian national who worked at her home, paying her less than minimum wages and forcing her to work for more than 40 hours a week.