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Updated: December 20, 2013 11:36 IST
Diplomat arrest row

India seeks withdrawal of case against Khobragade

Sandeep Dikshit
Comment (35)   ·   print   ·   T  T  
External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid had on Thursday said that he had sought details of what happened in the case of the diplomat and asserted the matter should not be pursued and be withdrawn. File photo: V. Sudershan
The Hindu
External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid had on Thursday said that he had sought details of what happened in the case of the diplomat and asserted the matter should not be pursued and be withdrawn. File photo: V. Sudershan

External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid will speak to his US counterpart John Kerry later tonight or on Friday seeking the unconditional dropping of charges of visa fraud against Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade who was arrested and strip searched in New York on charges of visa fraud.

Mr. Kerry had spoken to National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon late on Wednesday night after Mr. Khurshid was ``unavailable’’ but there was no reassurance on India's main demand of dropping of all charges against Dr. Khobragade. Mr. Kerry empathised with the sensitivities in India about the events that unfolded after Dr. Khobragade’s arrest but he expected that laws will be followed by ``everyone in the US’’.

``I was not available when John Kerry called. We are trying to lock a time for a call. [Mr.] Kerry is in the Philippines and there is a huge time difference," he explained while sounding a note of caution about the consequences of letting the dispute linger on for too long. ``Our relationship has a lot of investment, it is an irreversible matter and we have to deal with it sensibly,’’ he said.

Mr. Khurshid refused to comment on US Attorney Preet Bharara’s statement defending the arrest and strip-search of Dr. Khobragade.

However Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin provided a detailed rebuttal. There were no courtesies in the treatment meted out to the diplomat, ``under the normal definition of that word in the English language’’ and Mr. Bharara's remarks about equality before the law of both the rich and the poor was not conducive to resolving ``inaccuracies’’. It is also not a feature of the law that is exclusive to the office of the Manhattan US Attorney, said Mr. Akbaruddin.

Mr. Akbaruddin also took on the US attorney for admitting the maid’s family was evacuated from India even though legal processes were underway in New Delhi. ``It invites speculation about why it was necessary to evacuate the family of Ms. Richard and about the action purportedly being taken against them?’’ he sought to know while questioning the right of a foreign government to evacuate Indian citizens from India while cases are pending against them in the Indian legal system.

On the contrary, suggested Mr. Akbaruddin, when there is a prior legal process already underway in India, Mr. Bharara should have enabled justice to take its course in India. ``When the legal process in another friendly and democratic country is interfered with in this manner, it not only amounts to interference but also raises the serious concern of calling into question the very legal system of that country,’’ he said while terming the US Attorney’s statement as ``one more attempt at a post facto rationalization for an action that should never have taken place in the first instance.’’ (

Details of arrest sought

PTI adds

“I have sought details of what happened in the case of the diplomat,” Mr. Khurshid said, asserting that the matter should not be pursued and be withdrawn.

“Our relationship has a lot of investment, it is not an irreversible matter and we have to deal with it sensibly,” the Minister said.

A 1999-batch IFS officer, Ms. Khobragade was arrested on December 12 on visa fraud charges as she was dropping her daughter to school and released on a $250,000 bond only after pleading not guilty in court.

The ill-treatment of the its diplomat evoked a sharp reaction from India which initiated a slew of steps to downgrade the privileges enjoyed by the U.S. diplomats and their families including withdrawing airport passes and stopping import clearances.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had on Wednesday described as “deplorable” the way the diplomat was treated in the U.S.

She has now been transferred to the Indian Mission to the UN to give her fuller diplomatic immunity.

In his first statement in Parliament on the issue, Mr. Khurshid had on Wednesday said that she was the victim of a “conspiracy” and that some people had “trapped” Ms. Khobragade, who was put through both strip and cavity searches, procedures normally used for criminals.

He had also said that India will intervene “effectively and specifically” to ensure the return and restoration of dignity of its Deputy Consul General as it a matter of the country’s prestige and honour.

There is a strong demand that Ms. Khobragade should be released unconditionally and all the charges against her should be dropped.

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The easy and classy thing for our government to do would have been to
quietly fly this IFS babu back to India and then
lodge a strong protest in the media and to the US government. Then we
have this drama of moving this consular officer (not diplomat) to the
UN. Instead we choose to behave like 15 year olds - move barricades,
recall airport passes - the usual knee jerk reaction.
Sigh! I wish we all grew up as a nation.

from:  Rahul Garg
Posted on: Dec 20, 2013 at 08:22 IST

As the prosecutor said, the Indian govt and media are diverting attention from the
criminal act of lieing on the visa application and underpaying/over working
Sangeeta. Many top politicians, IAS/IFS officers get away with this in India using their
position and power. But this should not be expected in other parts of the world.
Indian govt should investigate and prosecute illtreatment of Sangeeta by Devayani.
US may also have taken advantage of diplomatic immunity outside the US. But this
should not be used to justify illtreatment of an Indian citizen.

from:  Prasad
Posted on: Dec 20, 2013 at 04:45 IST

@Shiva
Our faith in US judiciary is amazing. How would you explain US Govt and immigration team interfere with the Indian legal system by granting visa to the family of an accused as per Indian legal system.
Let us not show our inferiority complex by praising everything that is US or western.

from:  Vijay
Posted on: Dec 20, 2013 at 04:00 IST

Indian politicians and system should not interfere with the legal system and law and order of the US and the US will never tolerate it. In the US several top leaders and billionaires are charged and punished for their wrongdoing. This only exposes Indian corrupt and mockery system to the world and nothing else.

from:  Shiva
Posted on: Dec 19, 2013 at 18:15 IST

Despite reciprocative actions by Indian government, it really concerns us that the hegemonic US has not coming down even a little bit to heed to our demands.

from:  R.Vivek
Posted on: Dec 19, 2013 at 17:56 IST

I am a permanent resident of USA and i don't fully agree on both
sides. First is US govt. trying to project this as a case of human
trafficking of Ms. Richards and this is a grave charge. But however
this is grossly over exaggerated. In fact the State Department should
have considered the sensitivities of India and taken up at the
diplomatic level. The fact that some of the calls by the Indian
government to arrest Ms. Richards after she had gone missing was
unheeded shows the duplicity of USA. Having said that the Indian govt.
should ensure all its citizens are following the laws of other
countries.
I think India is justified to be outraged. At worst, they could have
issued "Persona Non-grata" to Ms. Khobragade. If this was a
Canadian/European diplomat, they would have definitely treated them
differently. How many American diplomats are indulging in drinking and
driving,murder,prostitution, homosexuality etc. in other countries.
Case is example of Raymond Davis in Pakistan.

from:  Balaji Panchapakesan
Posted on: Dec 19, 2013 at 17:44 IST

I think people are forgetting that as an a Indian diplomat representing her country this person
willfully violated the laws of the residing country on two fronts. First the minimum wage and
then the fraud committed on the visa application. This would not have been an issue if she
did not lie on her application. She should pay the amount that is required under the minimum
wage or do without a nanny like every other Indian who is here trying to subsist on their
income. What she did amounts to exploitation of a domestic worker. This would also not
been an issue if the Indian govt had afforded her full diplomatic immunity and not the limited
immunity of consular immunity. The US was following the law based on the evidence
presented. Her strip search was part of standard procedure from US Marshall's. Trying to go
on the offense when you r clearly in the wrong is a good strategy short term but I don't know
what they can accomplish long term. Also, elections r around the corner....

from:  Sree
Posted on: Dec 19, 2013 at 17:41 IST

A Country should behave BIG, It's possible that one individual
officer might have erred (or not as per the facts posted)...India
instead of reacting by removing the barricades around US Embassy
could have asked for clarifications from highest/Ultimate
authorities and expediting on hourly basis....in the sense DEMAND
THE TRUTH....not protection based on position.....the reaction of
Indian Gov was like stone age not that of a Statesman.....like an
Indian movie Villain moves behind the mother of a hero and asking
hero to back off ...( no problem with such movies) but for a Country
that's supposed to lead the world behaves like an impatient child
.....shame...

from:  snehasheela
Posted on: Dec 19, 2013 at 17:25 IST

Smt. Devyani's strip search is unfair, the so called messiah of human
rights the USA should know it can't throw stones at others when it is
living in glass house. On the other hand what about UPA govt's foreign
policy? when our Indians are facing racist violence in Australia and
other countries(incl. Pakistan) our govt turn a blind eye and lip
sympathy. Our govt is lethargic foreign policy

from:  RAMANATH
Posted on: Dec 19, 2013 at 17:18 IST

The whole episode only goes to confirm that in India only the rich, well heeled and connected people are cared for. So much fuss and hysteria on a diplomats arrest after having being charged, and a trial will prove whether she is guilty or not. But the government took no action for a ship captain who held for six months by a small little African nation without any charge. Obviously the latter family was not well connected.

from:  kumar
Posted on: Dec 19, 2013 at 17:17 IST

Nobody is above the law. Having said that the way the case was dealt
was not right in my opinion. I feel it was very heavy handed. It is bit
sensitive when you are dealing with govt officials especially in the
foreign land. The arrest warrant should not have happened in front of
her kids at school. If this happens to an US diplomat, what would US
do? Sit back and watch? Certainly not.

from:  Shankar Narayan
Posted on: Dec 19, 2013 at 17:16 IST

India should derecognise all US patents. If US companies want to do business in India do innovative work here & get local patent.

from:  Shaleen Mathur
Posted on: Dec 19, 2013 at 17:15 IST

Preet Bharara, the ambitious US Attorney for Manhattan South Dt., has made a statement (no one really asked him to!). I would have expected him to have stayed out of this fray, given that he himself admits in the statement that the Prosecutor's office has nothing to do with the arrest. But he had all to do with planning .Having said that, he makes haste to enjoin the case, to make some "brownie" points for himself. If he speaks the truth (all the nonsense about having served coffee - no biscuits?) to Devyani. He or Devyani, especially as many witnesses must be able to corroborate her statements, while he has to depend on his officials to save his & their backs. No, Preet, whatever your gubernatorial ambitions, you had best stay away from this one. Your time will come, & your role in this matter will be investigated, and your ambitious culpability will be established by our media. Meanwhile, your popularity in Punjab, is currently no doubt low. Best you stay away awhile.

from:  Ramgopal Dass
Posted on: Dec 19, 2013 at 17:07 IST

It seems a lot of readers are making comments without understanding the background behind the response of the Indian Govt. It is not so simple to say that "the lady has broken the law, so she should be prosecuted". At the diplomatic level various concessions are given by one govt. to another govt. What Ms. Kobragade has done is not an isolated incident. Every Indian diplomat is allowed by the MEA to keep domestic help in this manner. U.S also benefits from concessions provided to US diplomats in India. If India keeps quiet now, all Indian diplomats in the West may well be liable to be arrested in future on the same charge. Even the U.S. Govt. is aware of this and have allowed India to keep helps for so many decades. Indian Govt. cannot afford to reimburse the rates prescribed by the western countries. The helps will end up earning more than the envoy. Further, Indian govt. would not want diplomats to employ foreign domestic help as that would compromise security of the Indian State.

from:  Abhinab
Posted on: Dec 19, 2013 at 17:00 IST

I only wish Mr. Salman Khurshid had shown this level of vigour and initiative when the USA's illegal mining of data about millions of Indian citizens was revealed by Edward Snowden. At that time, he chose to say "It isn't really snooping".

It seems that as far as the Foreign Minister is concerned, the rights of one diplomat - who is facing serious criminal charges - trump the constitutional rights of millions of INNOCENT Indian citizens.

from:  Chaitanya Ramachandran
Posted on: Dec 19, 2013 at 16:47 IST

PULSE OF INDIA: The demand for withdrawal of all complaints against the concerned diplomat is unlikely to work in the light of the US insistence that it had acted in according with the US laws! Now that the diplomat has been safely placed at least according to the Indian MEA, it is advisable to diffuse the issue by allowing the matter to proceed as per the US laws! As Mahatma Gandhi would have us believe, "An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind."

from:  Swami Vas
Posted on: Dec 19, 2013 at 16:38 IST

Various Issues of interest evolving; one should stop using terms Dalit Devyani, Indian Born Bharara. One has to obey the law of the land. India's request to drop all charges is baseless as criminal charges were brought in.Does anyone think that there is no substance to that? What is the Indian authority doing while evacuation is going on the soil?

It is possible that the maid may have collected a significant information while working there; some of which might surface at a point during the course. The extent of examination of Devyani is unwarranted. At the same time hitting back at the Americans does not conform to the principles - the great nation is admired for, her history and peoples. These appear political reactions rather than respectful professionalism. The chronology of events is completely unclear on how long the saga is going on. Hope this is there in some admin back office. India should continue its course in a non-jerky manner which the whole world will closely monitor.

from:  venkata
Posted on: Dec 19, 2013 at 16:34 IST

Of the many actions that the Ministry of External Affairs has played to the galleries in the matter, the demand for withdrawal of the case is outstandingly stupid. This is an unambiguous revelation of the depths to which the government of the day will plunge in order to make for a strong selling point in next year's election.

To anybody with an smidgen of common sense and justice, it will be clear that the Deputy Consul General actions which caused this diplomatic furore is richly deserving of punishment and not the dumbfounding rewards that are being bestowed upon her.

And there seems to be every possibility that the Ministry of External Affairs will continue its over-zealous drive in painting the Deputy Consul General as the wronged party to whom the US and India owe a great deal in terms of appeasement.

What a shameful travesty of truth and justice this is.

from:  Kay Nathan
Posted on: Dec 19, 2013 at 16:19 IST

The degrading treatment meted out to the diplomat, standard procedure for USA law enforcement, does not mitigate the fact that she has been charged with a crime, and will be given the opportunity to defend herself. Only then we will know whether or not she is guilty as charged. That being said one wonders why in this modern egalitarian world diplomats and VIP politicians should be granted immunity from prosecution for criminal offenses. This only encourages them to commit more crimes. The days when foreign diplomats were at the mercy of the host state are long over and the Vienna Convention is no longer valid. Strip them of their immunity and they will become more honest and responsive to the public they are meant to serve

from:  thampi
Posted on: Dec 19, 2013 at 16:18 IST

A well justified move by India. Our External Affairs Minister must assert to Mr. Kerry that withdrawal of case against Devyani is the minimum expected of the US. Unless this is done the relations cannot be normalized. I must say that all this has happened due to overzealousness of one person of Indian origin -Mr. Preet Harara. He has trapped Devyani for his ulterior motives. For the purpose non-bailable warrants issued by Indian court and served on US authorities in due legal process were also ignored. The housmaid's family was 'evacuated' to US. The conspiring Harara has brought shame to India, the country of his origin.

from:  Pramod Patil
Posted on: Dec 19, 2013 at 15:59 IST

she should be treated according to norms.She is not an exception.Just because she
holds a certain position doen't mean she will benefit from that. One should have this
much dignity that atleast maid is paid in accordance with the agreement.It is highly
cheap act on her part.What ever US officials did was the right thing.

from:  deeksha
Posted on: Dec 19, 2013 at 15:58 IST

There seems to be a lot more at stake here than the visa fraud. India is only sounding a
warning to the hasty Americans to pipe down and forget what happened, better for both
side's relationship beyond the case-on-hand for whatever its merits. Obviously India has
been knowing and withstanding a lot of American arrogance in the past, but when it pains at
a certain point, India has to cry. But if the pain continues, India will have to retalliate to
defend by offence.

from:  Rajan Mahadevan
Posted on: Dec 19, 2013 at 15:56 IST

There are a few things people who comments don't understand. Firstly America is not a saint
state. It hurriedly takes its citizens who have committed small petty things like murdering in
broad daylight in public. Secondly American companies have a very good track record of
employing illegal migrants for less than state stipulated minimum.
Foremost America has insulted India with far greater stuff, searching Abdul Kalam IATA the
gate of US airways flight in Delhi(US marshals), Strip searching George Fernandes when he
was visiting USA as sitting Defence Minister of India besides other common Indians such as
Shah Ruk Khan. I think it is about time India and Indians demand some self respect

from:  JayAus
Posted on: Dec 19, 2013 at 15:56 IST

With the electrifying,near hysterical reaction of the UPA Govt.
against the US,I am beginning to wonder what skeletons the Govt. wants
remaining hidden,as a quid-pro-quo from the Diplomatic corps--for the
support lent to an ordinary consular officer.In the light of the
measured words chosen to convey "anguish" to Pakistani Foreign Affairs
people when our Jawans were decapitated,the same Govt now seems so
differently on a suicidal mission to "save" the consular officer's
dignity.Hopefully,wiser(and zany)institutions will look closely to
reveal the truth behind the uncharacteristic "spine" that has
explosively grown on to a decade old,jelly-fish-like Foreign Policy
course followed on matters of grave importance,where the dignity of
the entire country was on public audit.

from:  Alex Thomas
Posted on: Dec 19, 2013 at 15:49 IST

why should be given ANY immunity at all? she should be tried for what the legitimate
charges are. After all, it has been very clearly established the 'intake' process, however
degrading, was NOT discriminatory. and it was clearly not bungled by some local cops
overreacting. this was done by the appropriate wing of the US, the US Marshals
assigned to Diplomatic cases. India should not hide Khobragade. it would be no
different then than the US hounding Snowden for what he learnt in Delhi (hacking!)!

from:  mouli g marur
Posted on: Dec 19, 2013 at 15:38 IST

All this is being done to protect the inept handling of the matter by External Affairs Ministry. If
wining and dining was so essential part of Indian diplomacy and it needed Nanny to carry out
such activities, surely the Government which can afford to pay for the wine and dine, can
jolly well afford to pay more than a measly 600$ a month! What was this Government doing
from September when this matter was put in writing by the US of A? As for the female
diplomat, playing victim suits her wonderfully from Mayavati to the Speaker because she is
Dalit.... what about the original victim, Ms. Richard who slogged more than 40 hours a week
for a measly salary in a foreign land?

from:  Ravi
Posted on: Dec 19, 2013 at 15:38 IST

India should allow the law of the land to take its own course. They will
be creating a dangerous precedent by interfering in the legal system of
United States.

from:  P.K.Ramchandran
Posted on: Dec 19, 2013 at 15:32 IST

Visa fraud case is different and it should be dealt according to the
ruling of any country. But the question here is the way Indian diplomat
was treated, that too a female; should not be acceptable by Indian
Government.

from:  Shafee
Posted on: Dec 19, 2013 at 15:27 IST

Why should the U.S drop all charges on Devyani. Is she proved her innocence in the case. Though some methods of arrest by U.S was not good but it doesn't mean she should be left free. How could she pay 3$ for 1 hour at NY? Is this legal. She should be prosecuted and India should support by all means in this case.

from:  redhuraj
Posted on: Dec 19, 2013 at 15:24 IST

Why should the U.S. government drop charges against Ms. Khobraghade? Has her innocence been established? Does she deny filing a false visa application? Does she deny paying about $500 instead of the promised $4500? Why is the Indian government working itself--and the media--into a tizzy over the way she was arrested or treated? The American government lawyer says she was not handcuffed and was, in fact, treated with more courtesy and leniency than other suspects. If India does not like American arrest procedures, it cannot do anything about it. America can also counter that it does not like Indian police methods, including beatings in police lockup and the lack of transparency in most dealings with the public.

from:  R. Bhuvaneshwari
Posted on: Dec 19, 2013 at 15:21 IST

So far I understand that the maid should be prosecuted for the plot
against Devyani. Then Devyani should also been prosecuted for fake VISA
and information issue. Actually whatever America did, it is as per their
norms....

from:  SP Bhardwaj
Posted on: Dec 19, 2013 at 14:33 IST

First Indian gov need to prosecute her maid Ms.Richards and her husband
. They made conspiracies against this lady along with USA officials .
Secondly GOI should prosecute gay members of US embassy as per Indian
rule and put restrictions on their movements .Strict measures should be
taken so that USA will learn a lesson before misbehaving with Indian
representatives in the country.

from:  anil
Posted on: Dec 19, 2013 at 14:19 IST

Why should all charges be dropped ? Has she been proved innocent already ? By whom ? Is there any respect for legal systems by our esteemed politicians ? What mass hysteria is being created without even understanding all the facts of the case ? Can we all shut up and let the law take its course ? The only thing we can protest against is if Devyani had not been treated in accordance with law in USA relating to her arrest and detention and search.

from:  Ramji Abinashi
Posted on: Dec 19, 2013 at 14:12 IST

The Indian government seems to be using all the loopholes to protect the guilty party and punish the victims. Way to go!

from:  Satinder
Posted on: Dec 19, 2013 at 14:11 IST

If U.S can move the family members of offender (Sangeeta Richard-
Devyani's maid), to U.S for safety,, then -WHY CAN'T WE THEN OFFER
ASYLUM TO EDWARD SNOWDEN IN INDIA FOR THE FACT THAT HE HAS COMMITTED NO
CRIME IN INDIA AND HAD HELPED EXPOSE NSA'S DIRTY SPYING AND SNOOPING
IN INDIA

from:  Manoj
Posted on: Dec 19, 2013 at 14:09 IST
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