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US-India diplomatic row close to a resolution

Publication Date : 12-01-2014


Complying with a demand by India, the United States has withdrawn a diplomat from its New Delhi mission, as the row between the two countries over the treatment of former Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade took a step towards resolution.

The US State Department said last Friday that it deeply regrets the decision by India to expel a US diplomat but hoped that the relationship could now move forward. The department's spokesman did not name the US diplomat involved.

"This has clearly been a challenging time in the US-India relationship," said Jen Psaki of the US State Department. "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 and return it to a more constructive place."

US-India ties have soured significantly since Khobragade's arrest and strip-search last month.

Two scheduled visits by US officials to India have been called off and a series of retaliatory measures have been taken by New Delhi. India also transferred her to their United Nations mission in a bid to get her diplomatic immunity.

The 39-year-old diplomat is accused of lying about how much she would pay her maid so that the worker would be granted a US visa.

And while the case appeared to be in limbo at the turn of the year, a flurry of activity in the past two days seems to indicate that talks yielded a solution both sides could hold up as a win.

In quick succession, Khobragade gained full diplomatic immunity, was indicted by grand jury, and then asked to leave the US when the Indian government refused to waive her newly gained immunity. In so doing, the US did not prosecute the diplomat but also did not accede to Indian demands for an apology and for the charges to be dropped.

If anything, Psaki took pains to stress that Khobragade will still have to face a court should she return to the US. She added that a warrant of arrest might even be issued for the diplomat now that she has been transferred to a post in India's Ministry of External Affairs and lost her immunity.

"Prior to her departure, it was conveyed to her and to the government of India that she is not permitted to return to the United States except to submit to the jurisdiction of the court," said Psaki. "Her name would be placed in visa and immigration lookout systems to prevent the routine issuance of any future visa, and upon her departure, a warrant may be issued for her arrest. This does not change the charges. The charges remain in place."

The 21-page indictment issued on Thursday paints a picture of Khobragade as an employer who exploited her housekeeper.

It alleges that the diplomat refused to grant her maid a sick day on two occasions and even told her "not to get sick because it was expensive".

The State Department yesterday also sought to emphasise that the decision to accept her new UN accreditation - a move that granted Khobragade diplomatic immunity - was not a matter of giving her special treatment. It said it would refuse accreditation only in "rare circumstances such as events related to national security risks".

The Indian Ministry of External Affairs said that Khobragade reiterated her innocence.

"She affirmed her gratitude to the government of India, in particular to the External Affairs Minister, and the people of India, and also the media, for their strong and sustained support during this period," it said.

"She also affirmed her determination to ensure that the episode would not leave a lasting impact on her family, in particular, her children, who are still in the United States."



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