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.