Drop case against Khobragade unconditionally,demands Khurshid

The Ministry of External Affairs accused US federal prosecutor Preet Bharara of interfering with the Indian legal system.

Written by Express News Service | New Delhi | Published:December 20, 2013 3:18 am

India on Thursday demanded that the case against Devyani Khobragade should be dropped unconditionally. Noting that the case does not “deserve to be pursued” and should be withdrawn unconditionally,External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said,“Our relationship has a lot of investment,it is an irreversible matter and we have to deal with it sensibly.”

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) also accused US federal prosecutor Preet Bharara of interfering with the Indian legal system and giving “post facto rationalisation” for an action that should never have taken place.

Khurshid said his American counterpart John Kerry had called him up on Wednesday night but he was not available at that time to take the call,and that is the reason the US Secretary of State talked to the National Security Advisor. “I was not available when John Kerry called. We are trying to lock a time for a call this evening or maybe tomorrow. Kerry is in the Philippines and there is a huge time difference,” he said.

Though Khurshid said he was not available to take Kerry’s call,speculation is that the call was not taken by the minister to show India’s unhappiness over the case against its diplomat and the way she was treated.

Khurshid refused to comment on Bharara’s statement defending the arrest and strip-search of Khobragade,saying he would not react to an individual’s opinion. “This is not a case that deserves treating her like a common criminal…Our responsibility is to ensure dignity of the officer is preserved. We are not putting any terms except humane and responsible response to something of concern to us,” he said.

But MEA spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin criticised Bharara,saying,“The (Bharara’s) statement in question acknowledges that legal processes were in place in India. Yet,incredibly,it invites speculation about why it was necessary to evacuate (Sangeeta) Richard’s family and about the action purportedly being taken against them. The implication of this remarkable admission needs to be considered very carefully with regard to the implicit comment it makes about the Indian legal system,Indian law enforcement authorities,and the responsibility that legal officials of a foreign government seem to arrogate upon themselves with regard to the nationals of another country.”

Stating that Khobragade is the “only victim in this case”,Akbaruddin said,“The action taken against her was not in keeping with the Vienna Convention. There were no courtesies in the treatment that was meted out to the diplomat,under the normal definition of that word in English language.”

Meanwhile,US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman called up Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh and distanced the US government from Bharara’s remarks. According to sources,the 20-minute call was an effort to find a solution to the matter,and the two discussed specific steps.

In Washington,the Indian Embassy,in a statement,alleged that the US government did not respond to its series of requests for tracing Richard,who went missing in June last year,and preventing her from blackmailing Khobragade. According to the statement,the Embassy and the MEA have been taking up the matter with the US State Department and the US Embassy in New Delhi since June this year.

“No response was received from the US side for any of these communications,” it said,giving details of the series of communications it made to the US government in the last several months.

The Embassy said it received the State Department’s letter dated September 4,which requested it to inquire into the allegations levelled by Richard disputing her terms of employment with Khobragade. The letter,sources said,was one-sided and projected the interest of the missing maid,and did not take note of any of the communications made by the Indian officials to the US in this regard.

As a result,both the Indian Embassy in Washington DC and the MEA in New Delhi,in separate but similar communications to them,said the “tone and the content” of the letter was objectionable.

— with PTI

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