US seeks closure in spat with India

January 11, 2014 - 5:28:20 am

WASHINGTON: The United States yesterday said it hoped that a diplomatic row with India was now over. 

Relations have been in crisis since December 12 when Indian consulate worker Devyani Khobragade was arrested in New York for alleged visa fraud and making false statements about the employment of a domestic servant she had brought with her from India. Khobragade was formally charged in a New York court, but was granted diplomatic immunity on Wednesday, allowing her to fly home.

“We expect and hope that this will now come to closure, and the Indians will now take significant steps with us to improve our relationship.” But she confirmed that New Delhi had asked Washington to withdraw an embassy official in a fresh measure against the US diplomatic corps in India.

 

India expels US diplomat

 

New Delhi: A nasty month-long diplomatic row between India and the US got inflamed yesterday with New Delhi expelling an American diplomat after Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade, whose arrest had sparked unprecedented acrimony between the countries, was indicted by a US grand jury and left for New Delhi before she could be declared persona non grata or detained.

In reciprocal action, the US embassy was “asked to withdraw forthwith a US diplomat of similar rank as Khobragade”, official sources said. “We have reason to believe that the officer was closely involved in the processes related to the (Khobragade case) and the subsequent unilateral action by the US side,” the sources familiar with the developments said.

The name of the expelled American diplomat was not known. The US embassy remained tightlipped.

Khobragade, 39, India’s deputy consul general in New York, was arrested on December 12 and allegedly insulted for alleged falsification of her housemaid’s visa papers and violation of US labour laws. The widely publicised American actions caused outrage in India and strained bilateral ties in ways not seen in recent years, especially since the two countries developed a special relationship following their civil nuclear deal. 

She was acted on by US prosecutors after her maid, Sangeeta Richard, complained to human rights bodies that she was being ill-treated and underpaid. Khobragade was arrested when she had gone to drop her daughter to school in Manhattan, and reported that she was handcuffed and humiliated like a common criminal, a fact that was denied by the office of the prosecutor, Indian American Preet Bharara. She was later released on bail bonds. 

According to officials, the American diplomat, who was asked to leave, helped the housemaid Sangeeta Richard’s husband and two children to fly to New York two days before Khobragade’s arrest. 

The sources said that they were taken to the US despite the fact that there was a police case against Richard’s husband in a Delhi court. The US embassy not only quietly helped them fly, but also helped in granting full residency in the US to the domestic help’s family, the sources added.

External affairs ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin had earlier said that Khobragade had been given a G1 visa with full diplomatic immunity after she was transferred from the Indian consulate in New York to its permanent mission at the United Nations, and was on her way back to India. 

Prosecutors said that after Khobragade was indicted, US officials asked India to waive her immunity so that she could be prosecuted. India refused and transferred her back to New Delhi before she could be declared persona non grata and detained by local authorities. IANS

 

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