NEW YORK (TIP): A full scale diplomatic war seems to have erupted between India and USA over the arrest and strip-search of a senior Indian Diplomat Devyani Khobragade in New York on December 12, 2013 and her subsequent indictment for “visa fraud”. In what can be seen as a tit for tat action, India, on January 10, expelled a senior US diplomat in retaliation for the expulsion of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade hours earlier after she had been indicted by a grand jury in New York in a visa fraud case.
Arrest of Khobragade had led to tense diplomatic stand- off between the two countries which saw the US finally approving her accreditation to the UN on Wednesday, January 8 which gave her full immunity against partial immunity she enjoyed in her position as Deputy Consul General at the time of her arrest.Khobragade was told by the US to leave the country immediately after India refused to waive her diplomatic immunity to face trial. In a quick retaliation, New Delhi ordered the expulsion of an American diplomat of similar rank who was involved in arranging for the “evacuation” of three members of the maid’s family from India two days before Khobragade was arrested.
Refraining from using the term “expulsion”, official sources said in New Delhi that the US Embassy has been asked to “withdraw” one of its diplomats. Government of India has “reasons to believe that the diplomat is closely involved in the processes relating to the Khobragade case and subsequent unilateral action by the US”, the sources said without divulging the name of the American diplomat. The diplomat was understood to be closely involved in the “evacuation” of the family of Sangeeta, whose husband and two children were flown to the US with tickets issued by the official travel agency of the US Embassy. The diplomat is believed to have also signed the tax exemption for the air tickets using his diplomatic card. India’s tit-for-tat action is only the second instance of a US diplomat being expelled, the first instance being expulsion of George Griffin, then political Counselor, 33 years ago. That was in retaliation against similar action taken by the US against Prabhakar Menon, an Indian diplomat.
It is understood that it was always the effort of the government to bring back Khobragade, who had surrendered her passport after the arrest and was out on a bail of USD 250,000, through G-1 visa route which would have given her full immunity. Meanwhile, the office of US Attorney Preet Bharara made it known that the charges against Khobragade will remain pending until such time as she can be brought to Court to face the charges, either through a waiver of immunity or on her return to the US in a non-immune status which would make her liable to arrest. The United States has “deeply regretted” that India felt it necessary to expel the American diplomat. “We deeply regret that the Indian government felt it was necessary to expel one of our diplomatic personnel,” the State Department spokesman Jen Psaki said. “I can confirm that a US official accredited to the (American) Mission in India will be leaving post at the request of the government of India”, Psaki said. The spokesman said “this has clearly been a challenging time in the USIndia relationship” and the US expected that “this relationship will not come to a closure and India will take “significant steps” to improve the ties and return to a more “constructive place”.