Delhi keeps up pressure in diplomat row

December 23, 2013 - 10:10:25 am

NEW DELHI: India kept up pressure on the United States yesterday over a furore at the arrest and strip search of one of its diplomats in New York, saying “they must do something”.

Foreign minister Salman Khurshid (pictured), has sought to ease the crisis, saying the episode should not be allowed to derail “the valuable relationship” between the world’s two largest democracies.

But when told the US State Department had welcomed his remarks, Khurshid told the Press Trust of India news agency: “They (the US) must do something. Welcoming is not enough.”

Asked if he was hopeful of a resolution of the issue soon, Khurshid also said: “World keeps moving forward, world never dies, world never stops. Something will happen.” The crisis was sparked by the arrest of Devyani Khobragade, India’s deputy consul general at its mission in New York, on December 12, over accusations that she underpaid her maid.

Subsequent revelations that Khobragade was stripped by US Marshals and subjected to an invasive body search have caused outrage in India, which wants Washington to drop the case and offer an apology.

The US and India have been holding a series of talks to try to draw a line under the crisis, while US Secretary of State John Kerry has expressed “regret” over the episode.

Khurshid said on Friday that he hoped the “valuable relationship” with Washington would soon return to an even keel, remarks that he repeated on Saturday.

US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki pointed to Kurshid’s comments during a press briefing, saying “we certainly fully agree that it’s important to preserve and protect our partnership.

“It’s not just about diplomatic ties. We have over $90bn in bilateral trade. We’re supporting thousands of jobs in both of our countries,” she said in Washington on Friday.

The diplomat, a mother of two, now free on bail, was arrested over accusations that she lied about the salary she was paying her Indian maid in a US visa application.

According to New York authorities, she was paying the domestic worker a third of the figure mentioned in the visa application.

But her treatment has caused outrage in India, which sees itself as an emerging power that should be treated with respect by an ally such as the US.

India is trying to secure stronger diplomatic immunity for Khobragade by shifting her to its UN mission in New York, although such a move needs State Department approval.

Meanwhile, Bangladeshi human rights activist Shahriar Kabir lauded India’s tough stance on the issue of ill-treatment by the US to diplomat Devyani Khobragade, and termed the US as the “godfather all militancy”.

“India has already set an example. The way it has reacted to the harassment of the diplomat in the US. That is what we expected. It should be done. What US is doing throughout the world is atrocious. The way it’s intervening militarily... they don’t care,” Kabir said during a seminar organised by the Indo-Bangladesh Cultural Centre and Independent Journalist Society.

Kabir urged members of the civil society in countries waging a war against religious extremism to come together and take a united stand. “Those who are fighting religious extremism and fundamentalism in other countries do not know each other and so all of them are isolated,” he said.

The Bangladeshi activist said the role of the US in fanning fundamentalism across the world needs to unmasked.

He said despite the Bangladeshi government’s efforts to curb extremism, it needs to be aided by countries like India.


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