Washington, DC- The war of words has now crossed over to the war of actions with blame game in full swing in the ongoing US-India confrontation over the humiliation meted out to Devyani Khobragade, the Deputy Consul General of India (Dy CGI) in New York with the Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid telling Indian Parliament that India suspected a conspiracy against the Indian diplomat by American authorities.
On a day when US Secretary of State John Kerry called up Indian National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon and expressed regret over the treatment meted out to Khobragade last week for alleged visa fraud, the Indian Embassy in Washington, DC refuted earlier US contention that the Indian mission was informed of the issue in September.
In a statement to the press, the Embassy said that instead, it along with the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi have been taking up the matter of Khobragade’s domestic assistant Sangeeta Richard from June 2013 with the US State Department and the US Embassy in New Delhi.
The Embassy of India received the State Department’s letter dated September 4, 2013, which requested the Embassy to enquire in to the allegations brought in by Richard disputing her terms of employment with Khobragade and sought the findings of the Embassy.
In response, the Embassy statement noted that the Indian side both in New Delhi and in Washington DC reiterated the requests pending with the US side in this regard since June 2013 including the following:
“- assistance in tracing Dr. Khobragade’s domestic assistant Ms. Sangeeta Richard, an Indian citizen who entered the US with an Official Passport of the Government of India, who was found missing on June 23, 2013. This was reported immediately to the Office of the Foreign Missions in New York and NYPD.
– action against blackmailing by Ms. Richard demanding that she be permitted to change her passport, visa status and to work elsewhere, which would be in violation of US regulations.
– assistance in repatriating Ms. Richard as her passport was revoked on July 8, 2013 and is since staying in the US illegally.
– arresting of Ms. Richard who has taken cash, mobile phone and documents from the residence of Dr. Khobragade.”
Moreover, on October 8, a written response was sent by the Indian Embassy to the State Department rebutting the allegation and bringing out the facts of the case whereby Richard was seeking to subvert both Indian and US laws. The US side was also requested to assist in implementing an injunction issued on September 20, 2013 by the Delhi High Court against Richard restraining from initiating any legal action against Khobragade outside India.
Separately, on July 15, 2013, Philip Richard, husband of Sangeeta Richard filed a Writ Petition against Khobragade and the Union of India alleging that Sangeeta Richard was in police custody in New York and charging Khobragade. On July 19, 2013, Richard voluntarily withdrew his Writ Petition.
The embassy statement said, “In view of the above, the State Department was requested to assist in locating and repatriating Ms. Richard to India.”
With the Metropolitan Magistrate of South District, New Delhi issuing a non-bailable arrest warrant on November 19 against Richard, the arrest warrant was forwarded on December 6, to the State Department and to the US Embassy in New Delhi requesting them to instruct the relevant authorities in the US to arrest and repatriate Richard to India through the Indian Consulate in New York, disclosed the embassy statement.
The embassy statement announced, “No response was received from the US side for any of these communications.”
On December 12, 2013, Khobragade was arrested and was allegedly treated like a hardened criminal by making her undergo strip search and cavity search. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday called the US action “deplorable”, while Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid told the Indian Parliament that India suspected a conspiracy against the Indian diplomat by American authorities.
Meanwhile, India moved Khobragade out from the consulate in New York to its permanent mission at the UN on Wednesday. Although the US denied any knowledge of this move, the sources confirmed that the process was under way in which the US consent will be essential because of the visa issues. The move is seen to get Khobragade full diplomatic immunity from prosecution as she will be accredited to the UN, not the US. The move could also be an opening for the US to drop charges against Khobragade. India has demanded an unconditional apology and dropping of all charges against the diplomat.
With the public outcry in India increasing every day baed on the humiliating manner in which the diplomat was treated, it is time to de-escalate the situation before the “strategic partnership” suffers irreversible damage.