The Indian Ambassador to the U.S says the two countries still had "clearly differing views on immunity".
Even as protesters raised ‘Stand with Sangeeta’ slogans outside the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace here, the Indian Ambassador to the U.S., S. Jaishankar, answered questions on the Devyani Khobragade case within the building in his first public address. Mr. Jaishankar said the former Indian Deputy Consul-General’s case was “already under litigation in India and whatever happened here was an attempt to supersede what was happening in India.”
Ms. Khobragade was indicted on two criminal charges and asked to leave the country on January 9, 2014, after her domestic employee, Sangeeta Richard, worked with the U.S. Justice Department to build a case against the senior Indian diplomat based on allegations of visa fraud and underpayment of wages.
In the context of Ms. Khobragade getting arrested on the streets of New York and subsequently being strip-searched in the custody of U.S. Marshals, Mr. Jaishankar said that instead of calling on Indian diplomats to respect local laws in the U.S. he would broaden the question to ask whether all diplomats should respect all laws, including U.S. diplomats respecting Indian laws.
“That is an issue which is today under discussion,” he explained, adding that India and the U.S. still had “clearly differing views on immunity.” However, the Ambassador emphasised that both he and others he spoke to after taking up his post in Washington echoed the sentiment that “this should not have happened.”
Speaking to The Hindu on Massachusetts Avenue outside the venue of the Ambassador’s talk, Tiffany Williams, an anti-trafficking campaign coordinator of the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) said: “We think that [diplomats] should be held accountable to the same standards that we hold everyone to, which is to not abuse and exploit people. What happened in Sangeeta’s case was unacceptable and we hope that the new Indian Ambassador will take that to heart.”
Ms. Williams added that the NDWA and the umbrella trade union group AFL-CIO, both of which were protesting outside the Carnegie Endowment, were “really disappointed that India chose not to waive immunity and instead moved [Ms. Khobragade] to the United Nations where she was granted full immunity.” This meant that Ms. Richard could not have her day in court, she suggested.
Instead, Ms. Williams said, domestic workers all over the world deserved rights and hoped that the Government of India would pass legislation protecting domestic workers there and here.