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Devyani Khobragade case was mishandled by India and US,say ex-diplomats

The relationship between the two countries is too important to be derailed by Devyani's arrest.

Written by PTI | Washington | Updated: January 9, 2014 4:25 pm

The diplomatic row between US and India over the arrest of an Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade was mishandled by both countries and it is high time to move forward and find a diplomatic resolution,two former American diplomats have said.

“This storm has blown us temporarily off course,” former diplomat Frank Wisner told PTI in an interview. He added that Americans treated the case inappropriately,while India reaction was emotional.

A 1999-batch IFS officer,Khobragade,India’s Deputy Consul General in New York,was arrested on charges of making false declarations in a visa application for her maid Sangeeta Richard. She was released on a USD 250,000 bond.

The 39-year-old diplomat was strip searched and held with criminals,triggering a row between the two sides with India retaliating by downgrading privileges of certain category of US diplomats among other steps last month.

“The position that we have got into is deeply regrettable and I hope that the two sides could come to an early solution.

It can only be done quietly in discussions with qualified diplomats,” Wisner said.

Wisner said the relationship between the two countries is too important to be derailed by this arrest.

A retired US diplomat and a well know South Asian expert,Teresita C Schaffer also blamed both India and the US for the current impasse.

“The charges involved a serious offense and one that had arisen in the past as well. The treatment of Ms Khobragade was unnecessarily provocative and offencive. India’s response was dangerous,” Schaffer told PTI.

“The United States has always drawn a distinction between diplomatic and consular immunity (as indeed the Vienna Conventions do). The US considered this a serious offence,and there were at least two recent cases where Indian consular officials were charged with the same offence,” she said.

“Other options might have included a formal legal complaint involving payment of fines and/or back wages,asking for her withdrawal,or,in an arrest did occur modifying the search protocols,” Scaffer said.

Schaffer said the Indian government could also have handled the case differently.

“The Indian Embassy and Ministry of External Affairs knew that this kind of issue is trouble in the United States (there had been two recent cases involving other consular officials),she said.

“I have no problem with India enforcing reciprocity on consular immunity and changing the ID cards of US consular officials in India”,she said.

“But some of the other measures were really courting disaster,and had no relationship to the underlying incident”,she added.

“I’m thinking in particular of dismantling the security barriers in front of the US embassy in Delhi. An incident involving injury or damage,or worse death,under those circumstances would really have serious consequences for both countries,” Schaffer said.

“In this case there is much less substance involved,but still the grievances and misdeeds of the past are eagerly raked up,and the press is happy to report these,” Stephen P Cohen,senior fellow at the prestigious Brookings Institution,told PTI.

However,he felt it is unlikely to have much impact on Indo-US relationship in the long term.

“On both sides,there are far more important issues uniting (and dividing) India and the US,and Indians and Americans,than this,” Cohen said.

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  1. Jasmine L Sunil
    Jan 4, 2014 at 10:57 pm
    Now India is seeking to shield CRIMINAL Khobragade from criminal prosecution, arguing that she possessed full diplomatic immunity as an adviser to India’s permanent mission to the United Nations. Even if Khobragade had such immunity — and India’s recent effort to reign Khobragade to its permanent U.N. mission underscores that she did not — its use under these cirstances would pervert the intention of the 1946 Convention on Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations. As a consular official, Khobragade had a limited form of immunity covering her official acts, not her private affairsstead of acquiescing to the Indian government’s efforts to thwart justice, the U.S. government should deny the request to reaccredit Khobragade to the United Nations. The State Department should refuse to accord her full diplomatic immunity, rather than the more limited consular immunity she possessed at the time of her arrest. The federal criminal prosecution must be allowed to continue without regard to political expediency; anything else would send precisely the wrong message about the rule of law in the United States.U.S. officials should also suspend India from the visa program that permits diplomats to bring domestic workers to the United States; suspension is required under the 2008 Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act if there is at least one credible case of exploitation or trafficking and a foreign government has tolerated the abuse.At its heart, this incident is about a domestic worker alleging fraud, underpayment of wages and other serious violations of U.S. law. Khobragade’s counsel insists that she is innocent. As in previous prosecutions of foreign officials, the evidence — not misappropriated diplomatic immunity — should decide the case./.,,))))