Ignoring the US viewpoint, India has refused to consider the Devyani Khobragade episode as “closed”, saying there are “residual” issues which need to be addressed.
Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh said India has made its expectations clear to the US on the issue and hoped that it will be resolved.
“There are residual issues,” she told PTI in an interview when asked whether the Khobragade episode was a closed chapter as was being treated by the US. However, she refused to elaborate further on what steps were needed from the US to satisfy India.
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Singh said the US interlocutors were conveyed India’s expectations on the issue and expressed unhappiness over the filing of second indictment against Khobragade on charges of visa fraud. “We would have preferred that it (second indictment) did not happen,” she said.
A 1999-batch IFS officer, Khobragade was arrested in New York on December 12 last and was strip-searched, triggering a row between the two countries with India retaliating by downgrading privileges of certain category of US diplomats among other steps.
Khobragade was released on a USD 250,000 bond and was later granted full diplomatic immunity following which she flew back to India on January 10. She has since been transferred to the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi.
Though, the first indictment against her was rejected by a US Court, prosecutors last month re-indicted her on visa fraud charges and accused the diplomat of “illegally” underpaying and “exploiting” her domestic maid.
The US State Department has officially said, “This has clearly been a challenging time in the US-India relationship.
We expect and hope that this will now come to closure and the Indians will now take significant steps with us to improve our relationship and return it to a more constructive place.”
On whether the incident had affected relationship between the two countries, Singh replied: “To an extent, yes. But that is the strength of the relationship that in spite of having something like the Khobragade incident, you can sit down and talk to each other.”
The Foreign Secretary said as strategic partners both the countries were interacting with each other “too closely” on a number of issues and that their will be “differences” in such a relationship.
Asked whether there was a breakdown in Indo-US relationship following the episode, Singh said, “When you are actually in the business of interacting and in the business of continuing that relationship you don’t get into all these terms warmth, cordiality.
“You just carry on, not withstanding what has happened. You are conveying your views, you are trying to get a resolution and that you continue with other business as usual and try to insulate the rest of relationship from it.”
However, she insisted that there was no any diminution in cordiality in ties. “Otherwise how we would have dealt with it in the manner that we did. We got her back and dealing with all these issues.”
Rejecting that India and US was moving apart compared to the cordiality they had following signing of the nuclear deal, she said, “The closer you are the more differences you have”.
“As strategic partners you interacting with each other too closely on such a number of issues that their will be differences,” she said.
Talking about broad contours of the Indo-US ties, Singh said economic issues have come to the fore and the two countries are expanding deepening cooperation in diverse areas including defence and energy.
“Issues related to the pharma companies, issues related to not just the Americans but foreign investors wanting a further opening in the Indian economy, tax issues, domestic content issues. So all this issues have come to the fore and the focus has shifted.
“At the time of the civilian nuclear deal emphasis was on something else but don’t forget that after that India-US bilateral partnership in itself grew enormously in terms of everything that followed after that and all that is still progressing very well,” she said.