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Devyani lobbies colleagues, asks for focus on case

Indian Foreign Service officer Devyani Khobragade. File photo

Indian Foreign Service officer Devyani Khobragade. File photo  

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Diplomat wants case in the U.S. to be resolved “politically,” in touch with PMO

A year after her arrest brought India-U.S. ties to a standstill, Indian Foreign Service officer Devyani Khobragade has appealed to her colleagues to help in having the case against her in the U.S. resolved politically. In a 2,000-word e-mail to the IFS community on December 12, she has criticised the fact that the “focus has shifted away from how we could or should take the U.S. incident to its logical conclusion, and instead turned toward me.” In the e-mail, a copy of which is with The Hindu, Ms. Khobragade appeals to serving IFS members and senior (retired) diplomats to support her. Ms. Khobragade says the case must “be included into the political dialogue” between India and the U.S. Indicating that she has been in touch with the PMO, Ms. Khobragade continues, “I have tried to request the Political Executive in India to bring my situation to the attention of DoJ (U.S. Department of Justice) through a political directive, but as I understand, the PMO defers to the External Affairs Ministry on this matter.”

Support for Devyani peters out

The e-mail sent by Devyani Khobragade to the fellow IFS community and her statements to the media take a special significance ahead of President Barack Obama’s visit to India in January.

External Affairs Ministry officials would not confirm whether the issue would be taken up during the bilateral dialogue, but in May, Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh had told a television channel that it was “indeed” time to move on. “It is not as if [the Khobragade issue] is an insurmountable issue that is standing in the way of our relations developing in all other directions,” Ms. Singh said.

While the case, especially the manner of Ms. Khobragade’s arrest and “strip-search” had led to a virtual breakdown of Indo-U.S. ties, and even led to the withdrawal of then U.S. Ambassador Nancy Powell, the last few months have seen an upsurge in relations between the two countries. Many IFS officers who had been outraged at Ms. Khobragade’s arrest, and the U.S.’s disregard of her diplomatic immunity a year ago, say they do not support her cause to have the Prime Minister or the “political executive” take up the case now.

“PM Modi has not taken up his own visa ban with President Obama, and has taken a larger view of India-U.S. relations. So why should he put this case ahead of India’s bilateral relations,” asked a retired diplomat who received the e-mail.

Meanwhile, The Hindu has learnt that the report against Ms. Khobragade is being finalised, nine months after the External Affairs Ministry’s Cypher, NGO and Vigilance (CNV) section’s internal inquiry department first sent her a notice on the U.S. passport issue. Sources confirmed that until the vigilance process was completed, Ms. Khobragade, who is currently serving as a Director in the Development Partnership Administration Department, could not be posted anywhere. Adding to the case against her, the committee headed by the joint secretary in the CNV section is looking into the interviews given by Ms. Khobragade in recent weeks for any violation of service rules.

‘Silence misconstrued’

Speaking to The Hindu, Ms. Khobragade refused to confirm the inquiry against her, but defended her decision to speak to the media. “I feel my silence has been misconstrued. I had refrained from speaking earlier as I didn’t want to add to the confusion. But instead my silence has been used to spread misinformation about me,” she said in a telephone interview.

On her decision to keep dual passports for her daughters, who are in school in New Delhi, Ms. Khobragade said, “I have no love for the U.S. passports. On the contrary, it was my desire to keep the Indian passports for my children that has got me into all this trouble today.”

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2020 3:06:46 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/as-troubles-mount-devyani-khobragade-appeals-to-ifs-community/article6689385.ece

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