U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has extended his congratulations to India on the occasion of Republic Day, in the process further signaling Washington’s intention to move forward “with our high-level dialogues and exchanges soon.”
His comment, while typical of the annual statement released by the State Department, attains further significance in the wake of diplomatic hostilities between the two countries spiking following the December 12, 2013 arrest of Devyani Khobragade, India’s former Deputy Consul General in New York.
On Saturday, Mr. Kerry said that on behalf of President Barack Obama and the people of the U.S. he was “delighted to send best wishes to the people of the Republic of India as you celebrate Republic Day on January 26.”
On a reflective note the Secretary added, “The real magic of India lies as much in its promising future as it does in its rich heritage. I'll never forget my first visit to India nearly 20 years ago on a U.S. Senate Congressional trade delegation. The dynamism I saw then continues today. India is a country on the move.”
His comments come after weeks of intense diplomatic parleying culminated in Ms. Khobragade, whose strip-search in the custody of U.S. Marshals sparked outrage in India, being granted full diplomatic immunity by the State Department after her transfer to a new role in the Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations was accepted.
Under cover of this immunity Ms. Khobragade was asked to leave the U.S. and she did so on January 9, 2014, however not before being indicted on two criminal charges, felonies relating to visa fraud and the alleged underpayment and overworking of her domestic employee Sangeeta Richard.
While Ms. Richard is likely to receive a T-visa, usually given to victims of human trafficking, going forward, Ms. Khobragade will probably have an arrest warrant issued against her should she ever decide to return to the U.S. Her husband and two daughters, all U.S. citizens, remain in New York.
Even as a cold frost gripped Washington there was a measure of warmth emanating from the State Department this week, however, and Mr. Kerry highlighted recent high-level meetings between the Indian and U.S. sides.
He said, “When I spoke with External Affairs Minister Khurshid in Montreaux this past week, we agreed that both our peoples benefit when the world’s largest and oldest democracies work closely together… and that our countries remain firmly committed to the indispensable U.S.-India partnership.”
Indian Ambassador to the U.S., S. Jaishankar has also recently hinted at a post-Khobragade thaw in bilateral relations, yet indicated to media this week that there may be a push for greater clarity on interpretations of diplomatic and consular immunity, the principle that has been the focus of discussions since the senior diplomat’s arrest last month.