Bilateral relations appeared headed towards a big chill over the case of former Indian Deputy Consul General Devyani Khobragade (39), with Washington confirming on Wednesday that a meeting planned for next week between its Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and his Indian counterparts in New Delhi has been delayed for the moment.
The latest development may spell trouble for the bilateral relationship that has been beset by a diplomatic crisis following the arrest of the senior Indian diplomat on the streets of New York on December 12, on charges of visa fraud relating to the alleged underpayment of her domestic employee Sangeeta Richard.
Explaining the decision, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki did not directly link it to the Khobragade issue, merely stating that the U.S. placed “great emphasis” on the bilateral energy partnership and “in order to find a time to allow both sides to deliver on the important issues… we’re looking for a mutually convenient time in the near future… to hold it.”
India defends action
Sandeep Dikshit reports from New Delhi:
India has defended the withdrawal of special privileges to the U.S. Embassy here, with External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid saying the government was taking measures that are “fit and proper and in the overall national interest.”
“We are not doing anything except what is appropriate under reciprocal arrangements,” said the Minister even as official sources hinted at a further package of measures aimed at ensuring U.S. diplomats here are treated on the same footing as their Indian counterparts in the US.
One of them is informing the U.S. that the American Community Support Association (ACSA), being run from its premises, will not draw duty-free supplies on behalf of 40 other missions.