A Seemingly Petty Dispute Has Exposed The Gulf Between India And America

RTX16OJHREUTERS/Mohammed Jaffer/SnapsIndiaDevyani Khobragade, India’s deputy consul general, attends the India Studies Stony Brook University fundraiser event in Long Island, New York, December 8, 2013.

A diplomatic row between India and the US escalated after the Indian government announced a series of retaliatory measures against the US in response to the arrest of its deputy consul-general, Devyani Khobragade, in New York. On December 19th India’s foreign minister, Salman Khurshid, said that the charges against Ms Khobragade should be withdrawn.


On December 12th law-enforcement agencies in New York reportedly handcuffed Ms Khobragade in public after which she was strip-searched. Ms Khobragade is charged by the US authorities with visa fraud-she is accused of underpaying but over-reporting the salary of her Indian maid on the latter’s work-visa form, charges that she has denied. Indian officials claim that Ms Khobragade was kept in a jail with drug addicts before being released on bail.

Ms Khobragade’s treatment has caused outrage in India-political leaders and officials snubbed a visiting delegation of US congressmen this week, and India has threatened to curtail the privileges extended to US diplomats. Security barricades around the US embassy in the Indian capital, New Delhi, were removed on December 17th, and US diplomats have been asked to surrender for revaluation identity cards that grant special privileges.

India has also clamped down on import clearances for the embassy. Moreover, the Indian government has sought the salary details of local Indian staff employed on US diplomatic missions. India also transferred Ms Khobragade to its mission at the UN in New York in a belated bid to boost her diplomatic status. Currently, the US argues that her limited diplomatic immunity does not cover private conduct in violation of US law.

The incident marks a rare public spat between two countries that have enjoyed largely positive ties since 2001. Following Indian reprisals, the US secretary of state, John Kerry, sought to douse tensions by expressing “regret” over the incident. It is the third case of alleged mistreatment of Indian diplomats in the US in three years.

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