With 7 working days for the Khobragade case to come to court, India, US take conciliatory steps

More security for Americans in Delhi; Powell promises help for Indian Cos.

By Deepak Chitnis

WASHINGTON, DC: As the Devyani Khobragade fiasco rages on, parties on both the Indian and US sides have taken some friendlier steps over the past few days.

In New Delhi, the Indian government has ramped up security at several major US installations throughout the city, including the US embassy. This is after India removed extra security barriers it had placed in front of the embassy for additional protection, as a retaliatory move against the US over its treatment of Khobragade, India’s Deputy Consul General at the Indian Consulate in New York City.

The US has complained that since the barriers were removed their personnel were far less safe, and requested the Indian government to re-instate the added security. India has now complied, and has also said that around 150 policemen will be on patrol around the US embassy, as well as the US-run school and its center in New Delhi.

India’s sudden friendliness may be because the US Department of State is getting ready to announce its official verdict on the Khobragade case. It has now been three weeks to the day since Khobragade was arrested, and the US government has until January 13 to state its intentions before the case goes to court by default.

January 13 is only 11 days away. Subtract two weekends – four days – and there are only seven working days left before that deadline goes into effect, including today.

The State Department has given no official indication that they are ready to make any sort of announcement in this regard, but India’s complete tonal shift has to be looked at with a raised eyebrow. After making such a commotion in the weeks following Khobragade arrest, and going to dire lengths to protect their Deputy Consul General, could this be a sign that India is ready to make peace with the US, to cozy up to its friend and try to alleviate as much of the tension as it possibly can?

On the other side of the coin, the US Ambassador to India Nancy Powell has also made some conciliatory gestures in recent days, to alleviate the growing rift between the two countries.

Speaking at a program in Hyderabad, conducted jointly by the Select USA arm of the US Department of Commerce and Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), Powell said that facilitating the move of Indian companies to the US was vital to ensuring job creation in both countries, keeping both economies healthy, and ensuring that ties remain strong between the US and India.

This comes on the heels of Powell saying in a new year’s message that she “regrets the circumstances” of Khobragade’s arrest, echoing Secretary of State John Kerry’s remarks in the days immediately following Khobragade’s incarceration. Diplomatic euphemism or not, it’s indicative of how little the US has done about the case compared to the row India has stormed up.

If Khobragade is taken to court and convicted of the charges against her – visa fraud and making false statements – she could face ten years in prison for the former and five years for the latter. The outcome of her case will set a precedent for all future diplomats stationed in the US; the eyes of the world are keenly watching the outcome.

To contact the author, email to deepakchitnis@americanbazaaronline.com

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