Stunning revelation by Nisha Desai-Biswal, the US Assistant Secretary of State.
By Sujeet Rajan
NEW YORK: The Indian Embassy knew two months ago, in September, that an investigation was going on against Dr. Devyani Khobragade, the Deputy Consul General of the Indian Consulate in New York, over allegations of wage abuse and non-compliance, and was in danger of being arrested.
The stunning revelation came from Nisha Desai-Biswal, the US Assistant Secretary of State, in an interview to The Times of India, in Washington, DC, today.
She also confirmed what many had suspected, that the arrest action initiated by the office of Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, had been authorized by the State Department, among other Federal agencies involved. Khobragade’s arrest was sanctioned finally by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security.
Despite the growing controversy over the issue in India, and deteriorating Indo-US ties, Desai-Biswal maintained in the interview that the US would insist compliance on their laws on minimum wages and treatment of domestic workers.
She said the laws were “something we feel strongly about and something we are willing to work with our partners about.”
The State Department also issued a statement today which indicated that the US was beginning to pay close attention to the developments in India over Khobragade’s arrest.
US state department spokesperson Marie Harf termed Khobragade’s arrest an “isolated episode”, and said that the US was doing its own investigation into the arrest of the diplomat.
“We understand that this is a sensitive issue for many in India. Accordingly, we are looking into the intake procedures surrounding this arrest to ensure that all appropriate procedures were followed and every opportunity for courtesy was extended,” said Harf.
However, her comments may not give much comfort to India about a quick-fix solution to the problem of Khobragade’s arrest and danger of being jailed, as she stressed that the arrest was a “law enforcement issue.”
“While this is a law enforcement issue and will need to be worked through standard procedures and official law enforcement channels, we will continue to work this issue with India in the spirit of partnership and cooperation that marks our broad bilateral relationship,” Harf added.
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