Everything You Need to Know About the Case
Devyani Khobragade (39), Deputy Consul General and 1999 batch IFS officer, was arrested in New York, on allegations made by her former domestic assistant – who’s missing since June – that Devyani had not been paying her minimum wages and forced her to make false statements to obtain a visa.
Devyani is facing charges of visa fraud and paying less than what had been declared before the US immigration authorities to her domestic servant Richards, who had brought in from India in 2012. Devyani’s father Uttam Khobragade, a retired IAS officer, said that their former housekeeper Sangeeta Richards had through some people made demand for $10,000 and also wanted to facilitate her permanent stay in the US.
With India describing the arrest and handcuffing of its diplomat for alleged visa fraud in the US as “shocking and appalling”, Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh summoned Ambassador Nancy Powell over the “unacceptable treatment” and “public humiliation” of the Indian Foreign Service officer.
Union External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid has termed the arrest of Deputy Consul General Devyani Khobragade in public as an “insult” and said the US’s reaction is awaited on the matter.
As media reports that Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade was “strip-searched” after her arrest in New York threatened to escalate a diplomatic row between the two countries, the US suggested it had merely followed “standard procedures.”
Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi and union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde Tuesday declined to meet a US Congressional delegation to highlight India’s strong disapproval of the arrest and handcuffing of an Indian diplomat in New York last week.
On the question of both canceling their meetings with a visiting congressional delegation to show India’s displeasure, the State Department spokesperson again sought to pass the buck.
Angry over the “despicable” and “barbaric” treatment meted out to its diplomat, India asked US diplomats to turn in their IDs.
Uttam Khobragade, father of 39-year-old Devyani, met Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde and External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid and demanded that the issue be resolved through “political and diplomatic” initiatives.
Reacting to a slew of retaliatory measures taken by India in response to the treatment of Khobragade, India’s deputy consul general in New York, the State Department spokesperson Marie Harf said “an isolated episode” should not “impact the bilateral relationship.”
In a damage control exercise, Kerry also expressed his concern saying this “unfortunate public issue” of the arrest and strip search of Devyani Khobragade, India’s deputy consul general in New York, should not be allowed to hurt “our close and vital relationship with India”.
IACC, a non-government, industry led and industry-managed organisation for promoting commercial relations between the two countries, strongly objected to the “humiliating treatment” meted out to Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade by the US law enforcement agencies.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath Thursday said that to satisfy India the US will have to apologise and admit their mistake for the arrest and subsequent humiliation of Indian diplomat. The statement comes after US Secretary of State John Kerry called India’s National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon Wednesday to express his “regret” over the situation in a bid to end the standoff between the two countries over the issue.
India hit back at US Attorney Preet Bharara, who had justified Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade’s arrest, accusing him of interfering with the Indian legal system and asserting that the arrest was not in keeping with the Vienna Convention on diplomatic immunity.
As US officials held talks with their Indian counterparts to find a resolution to the diplomatic row over the strip-search of an Indian diplomat, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh directed officials to ensure “full resolution” of the issue.
External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid Thursday said the decision to revoke the paring down of privileges to US diplomats would not be taken in a hurry.
“Such decisions are not taken in a hurry. We will study the matter and then take a call,” the minister told IANS.
Trying to bring the temperatures down in their diplomatic spat, the US welcomed India’s reconciliatory stress on the importance of preserving their “valuable” ties as they try to work out a solution. The US and India were engaged in conversations at various levels to find a way forward, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters saying it agreed with the Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid’s views on how important and valuable the relationship is.
India and the US may be moving towards a resolution of the stand-off over senior diplomat Devyani Khobragade’s case with the envoy getting exemption from personal appearance in a New York Court hearing visa fraud charges against her even as she got her accreditation to the UN headquarters.
India said it has decided to take firm “reciprocal steps” against US consular staff in the country following the end of the deadline for surrendering the identity cards provided to them.
“India has decided to take firm reciprocal steps following the end of the deadline for surrender of identity cards provided to US consular staff in India,” sources said.
The sources said new identity cards, which are replicas of those provided to Indian consulate officials in the US, are being given in lieu of the withdrawn cards.
New Delhi has also decided that no cards will be given to family members of US consular officials, as the same courtesy is not extended to Indians in the US.
Even as talks continue to resolve the impasse in the arrest case of a top Indian diplomat in the US, Washington has asserted that the “larger issue” of bringing domestic assistants into the country was also on the agenda. Meanwhile, diplomat Devyani Khobragade’s lawyer said investigators had made a “disastrous” conclusion by mistakenly reading entries in the visa form.
Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade had full diplomatic immunity at the time of her arrest, as she has been accredited as ‘advisor’ to the permanent mission of India to UN, since August, sources have said.
The week has been full of new revelations, starting with the information that the US Embassy in India had been very much complicit in ‘conspiracy’ to get Khobragade’s maid Sangeeta Richard’s family out of the country. It was found that the tickets for Richard’s husband and two children were paid for by the US Embassy’s official travel agency, with exemption for tax given to diplomatic missions.
With India determined not to relent on its demand for the US to formally apologise on the handcuffing and strip-search of its envoy Devyani Khobragade, a special group of experts, including in international law, would be meeting to discuss the case. The meeting of the group of experts, set up by Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh, is indicative of India’s firm resolve to pursue the matter to the end, said sources.
The US has been quiet on the matter for the past few days on account of most senior officials going on end-of-year leave for Christmas and New Year.
US is proceeding with the prosecution of senior Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade and has no intention to withdraw the case of visa fraud against her. US sources said that more evidence was being gathered against the 39- year-old diplomat before the indictment is filed. The deadline for indictment is January 13.
A video currently in circulation on the social media, which claims to be allegedly showing the CCTV footage of the strip search of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade after her arrest in New York is a hoax, dangerous and provocative fabrication, the United States has said.