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Updated: December 20, 2013 19:23 IST

US Ambassador Powell meets MEA officials

Sandeep Dikshit
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Daniel Arshack, lawyer representing Devyani Khobragade, speaks to the
media in front of the Indian Consulate in New York on Wednesday.
Daniel Arshack, lawyer representing Devyani Khobragade, speaks to the media in front of the Indian Consulate in New York on Wednesday.

Another State Department official speaks to Foreign Secretary

US Ambassador Nancy Powell reached the Ministry of External Affairs on Friday morning in an effort to resolve the bilateral diplomatic discord arising from Indian diplomat Devyani Khobargade's arrest and maltreatment.

The meeting followed positive signals from the US since Thursday, said informed sources. A senior U.S. diplomat had phoned Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh in an “effort to find a solution”, they added.

India has sought unconditional dropping of charges of visa fraud slapped on Ms. Khobragade, who was arrested and strip-searched in New York. The sources said one way of accommodating both sides could be examining the possibility of dropping charges in each other's courts.

But there was no let-up in follow-up measures by India as all U.S. diplomats were set to lose special treatment at airports with the expiry of their special passes from midnight on Thursday night.

The phone call by Wendy Sherman, third ranking U.S. diplomat, was a follow-up to the conversation between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon on Wednesday evening, to discuss “specific steps,” added sources.

During the 25-minute conversation, the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs also distanced herself from U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s statement which triggered a rebuttal by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).

MEA spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin took on the attorney for admitting that the family of the maid, who was a domestic help to Ms. Khobragade, was “evacuated” from India even as legal processes were under way in New Delhi.

Mr. Akbaruddin said 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 U.S. Attorney’s statement “one more attempt at post facto rationalisation of an action that should never have taken place in the first instance.”

External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said he would be speaking to his U.S. counterpart John Kerry. Mr. Kerry had to speak to Mr. Menon on Wednesday night as the Minister was “unavailable.”


>>The front-page report, “U.S. seeks to ease tensions” (Dec. 20, 2013), described Wendy Sherman as the Secretary of State for Political Affairs. It should have been Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs.

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I quote a letter in todays Washington Post, because it is a perspective that is relevant:
The (justifiable - my addition of one word to this quote!) outrage in India is not that a career diplomat is being charged for under-paying her maid. A lot of people would be rooting for the maid in that case. The way the US attorney's office handled it, by heaping as much indignity on her as they did, they're doing great disservice to the maid whose rights they claim they're protecting, for now the focus is no longer about the plight of the maid. It's all about how the Diplomat was ill-treated.

from:  Pike Stacy
Posted on: Dec 20, 2013 at 09:21 IST

Preet Bharara is a US attorney working for NY state in the US. He has been a firebrand of sorts in the US. He led the effort to take down Rajat Gupta, Raj Rajaratnam, et. al. for the insider trading. Despite the good work that he may have done so far, I think he has dented the India-US relations seriously with this episode. The US state dept (which manages foreign affairs) was probably completely in the dark about this episode and is now wondering how to undo the damage without violating local laws in the US. Preet should have had the sense to see that strip searching a senior Indian diplomat was going to become a major diplomatic issue. Such people should be sent to work in an academic environment where they don't do damage like this anymore.

from:  Pavan
Posted on: Dec 20, 2013 at 08:23 IST

Indian diplomat strip searched ... warm relations between 2 allies are about to seriously damage! ... Reasons: Upcoming elections in India ....
Mayavati has already played her 'Dalit' card ... an election statement by Congress: 'Look, we are standing up against the U.S.,' (on such petty issues! sick!) ... Why? To divert the attention of Indians from the burning issues like inflation, poverty, unemployment, corruption in the name of national pride! ... You think; I am crazy to write all this ... almost all international media (for US / against US) has started analyzing this incidence that way.

from:  Shrihari Kulkarni
Posted on: Dec 20, 2013 at 08:06 IST

Lets get all our diplomats back.

from:  Mahesh Kuthuru
Posted on: Dec 20, 2013 at 06:54 IST

Might is right!

from:  s. Lewitt
Posted on: Dec 20, 2013 at 06:50 IST

Shame on Indian politicians. They are not asking why the diplomat was underpaying her maid but rather asking why she was arrested and treated as any criminal is treated in United States. Diplomats such as Devayani are a black mark for Indians. India should have recalled her immediately to avoid more shame rather than making it known to the world how wealthy Indians treat other Indians

from:  Shiva Kumar
Posted on: Dec 20, 2013 at 06:22 IST

Those of you who rant about the injustices of the US system and the barbaric way their law enforcement officers treat their accused, may be you can take a small step in getting back at the US.
Stop going to the US. Stop queuing up for Visas from 4am outside the consulates, stop dreaming about the admission to an US university or that green card or the residency.
No, you can't. You desparetly crave to go to the US while screaming at them for imagined or real injustices. If you so hate the US, boycot everything that is American.

from:  Parthiban
Posted on: Dec 20, 2013 at 05:56 IST

The story so far is so good fit for a nice film production -just treatment of Indian servants in Indian embassies, you can add some fiction, politicians interference, election stunt, dalit woman officer etc. or fit for writing a book and one can submit to Booker prize.

from:  R.Chandrasekhar
Posted on: Dec 20, 2013 at 04:27 IST

I believe the case against the diplomat is not sustainable on two grounds.
1)The minimum wages act exempts live in house maids.They do not come under minimum wages act.I believe the maid was a live in.
2)If there is a visa fraud the action should have been on visa holder as well.

from:  govindarajan
Posted on: Dec 20, 2013 at 04:23 IST
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