Washington: In damage control mode, the US has sought to distance itself from anti-India comments attributed to a US diplomat expelled from New Delhi in retaliation of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade’s expulsion.
“Those comments absolutely do not reflect US Government policy, nor were they made on any official US Government social media account,” State Department spokesperson Marie Harf told reporters in response to a question.
“Again, I would underscore that these do not in any way represent the US Government position,” she said referring to media reports about comments attributed to Wayne May, who headed the US embassy’s security team in New Delhi.
Harf, however, declined to confirm “due to privacy considerations” whether it was indeed May who had been asked to leave by India after the US sought the withdrawal of Khobragade from the US following India’s refusal to waive her immunity to face visa fraud charges.
Wayne May and his wife Alicia Muller May, who worked as the US embassy’s community liaison officer, both made snide remarks in social media about “holy cows” blocking roads,”No eating the sacred cows” and vaious Indian local customs.
The spokesperson also hoped that Khobragade’s return would bring “closure” to the “challenging times” in India-US relations and the two sides would take “significant steps” to put their relations back on track.
“Clearly this has been a challenging time in the US-India relationship. We expect that this time will come to a closure, though,” Harf said. “I think we’re increasingly getting towards that point, and that together we will now take significant steps with the Indian Government to improve our relationship and return it to a more constructive place,” she added.
Harf would not spell out the planned steps saying: “I think on all sides, we have to take significant steps. It’s not just the US, it’s the Indians as well. We just want to get back to business and we want to put this behind us, and we want both sides to work together to move the relationship forward.”
Indian ambassador to the US, S Jaishankar met Rose E Gottemoeller, acting under secretary of state for arms control and international security, at the State Department Monday to discuss bilateral cooperation.
Gottemoeller “stressed that it is critical that both sides refocus our attention on the broad agenda before us,” and “underscored the importance of increasing bilateral cooperation on non-proliferation, defence, and arms control”
Last week, two senior US officials, assistant secretary of state Nisha Desai Biswal and Energy secretary Ernest Moniz, were forced to cancel their scheduled visits to New Delhi because of the Khobragade affair.
Meanwhile, hundreds of Republican Party of India-A activists gave a rousing welcome to Khobragade who arrived in Mumbai yesterday.
Khobragade, 39, appeared relaxed and cheerful as she stepped out of the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport’s domestic terminal. The assembled activists shouted slogans in her support and condemned the US for the recent incidents.
“I thank the people of Mumbai for their love and support to me,” she said outside with her hands folded in a namaste, after nearly a month long ordeal in which her family, including father, retired senior bureaucrat Uttam Khobragade fully supported her.
Khobragade had reached New Delhi last Friday from the US after she was publicly arrested and later indicted by a jury for an alleged visa fraud.
Since she has not yet been given any posting so far, Khobragade is likely to spend time with her family in their Mumbai suburban home for the next few days.