Tit-for-tat measure as diplomatic wrangle continues.
By Deepak Chitnis
WASHINGTON, DC: Although Indian Deputy Consul General Devyani Khobragade left the US under the cover of her newly confirmed diplomatic immunity granted by the US, her home country is not pleased with how the case has turned out, and is retaliating by ordering a US diplomat stationed in New Delhi to return back to the US.
The diplomat, as yet unidentified, is said to occupy a position in New Delhi similar to what Khobragade’s office was in New York City.
India is still upset over the fact that Khobragade was indicted by the US on Thursday on two counts of visa fraud and making false statements, and will have to face trial if she ever returns to the country in a non-immune status.
India has issued a formal request to the US Embassy in New Delhi to withdraw the diplomat in question and promptly return that person to the US. Reports suggest that India say the diplomat in question was involved in the Khobragade case – possibly in the processing of visas to Khobragade’s accuser, Sangeeta Richard and her family, at the American Embassy.
India had repeatedly asked the US to dismiss all charges against Khobragade, issue a formal apology, and give her full diplomatic immunity. The apology and the dismissal of charges never came about. She was instead indicted, but will never have to face those charges or be prosecuted as long as she visits the US with full diplomatic immunity.
As for Khobragade’s future? She has returned to New Delhi and will serve a posting at the Ministry of External Affairs, which is required of all Indian consular officers upon returning from a foreign posting. After that, she may be posted yet again to a position in the US, for instance, as a member of India’s Permanent Mission to the UN or to the Indian Embassy in Washington, DC. She could be posted in other countries close to the US too, Canada for instance.
Khobragade can, in other words, come back to the US as long as she is doing so in a consular capacity with diplomatic immunity. The minute she ceases to be in the employ of the Ministry of External Affairs – and is, therefore, no longer a diplomat, consular officer, or ambassador of any kind – she can no longer set foot on US soil without risking facing a trial and prosecution.
The big takeaway from all this, however, is that the US and India still are not on the best of terms, and India will likely remain irked by the US and continue to make overtures to that effect, at least for the time being.
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