MEA reinstates Devyani Khobragade, but Bharara continues to haunt her

NEW DELHI (TIP): The recalling of India’s high commissioner to New Zealand, after his wife allegedly assaulted a domestic help, has again brought under focus Devyani Khobragade who continues to suffer in the absence of a closure to her case which threatened to derail Indo-US ties not so long back.

The ministry of external affairs (MEA) has sought to make better her situation by reinstating her and making her director of the important States division but with a US arrest warrant still pending against her, the 1999 IFS officer has not been able to travel abroad.

Khobragade had been stripped of her responsibilities with the ministry last year in December and put on “compulsory wait” after she gave interviews to the media in which she said the vigilance inquiry against her was unfair. The inquiry sought to know how her 2 daughters were in possession of both Indian and US passports.

The decision to reinstate Khobragade was taken by foreign secretary S Jaishankar who felt Khobragade was being unnecessarily victimised. That has not fully ended her ordeal though as she is still unable to travel and the passports of her kids remain confiscated.

Khobragade met senior officials in┬áthe PMO last week to discuss her case. Her children’s passports have not been restored yet despite the Delhi high court staying the revocation of the travel documents. The kids are spending their summer vacation with their father in the US but will require Indian visas to return.

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The government, however, has decided not to contest the case legally in the US and instead focus on a political settlement. Khobragade has not travelled abroad since she returned to India after her arrest and humiliating strip-search for underpaying her nanny. The ministry is unable to post her to any country with which the US has an extradition treaty.

“The very fact that she is now posted in an important division shows that the ministry is mindful of her interests,” said a senior official who did not wish to be quoted. The official added that MEA’s decision to reinstate Khobragade came despite her appeal in court challenging the revocation of her children’s passports by the ministry.

Indian authorities have discussed with the US state department the possibility of resolving the issue politically, sources said.

US state department though has expressed helplessness in the absence of an approval for such a resolution from the department of justice. Indian officials don’t want to engage the department of justice not only because they believe it has no jurisdiction over the issue but also because of the presence there of attorney Preet Bharara who continues to be hostile to Khobragade.

Government in fact may wait for Bharara to demit office as US attorney for Southern District of New York before moving forward. Bharara had chosen to re-indict Khobragade last year even after her return to India, leading India to say that this re-indictment was going to hurt attempts to mend ties between the 2 countries.

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