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India Red-Faced Over Diplomat's Humiliation By US; Tension Escalates

DECEMBER 18, 2013

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Devyani Khobragade, an IFS officer and Indian diplomat, posted as Deputy Consul General in New York, has been subjected to humiliating treatment by the US authorities, causing a major diplomatic standoff between the two countries.




Khobragade was arrested in New York by the local police when she was dropping her daughter off at school. Reportedly, Khobragade was handcuffed, put to a strip search and confined with drug addicts and hardened criminals after her detention. She has been accused of a visa fraud, giving false statements and underpaying her maid Sangeeta Richard. It has been alleged that  Khobragade claimed to pay her $4,500 per month while actually, she was paying her $3.31 per hour, much less than the US minimum wage. Khobragade was detained for six hours and released on a $ 250,000 bond (Rs. 15 lakh) bond later after pleading not guilty and surrendering her passport.





Interestingly, her arrest was ordered by the high-profile Indian public prosecutor Preet Bharara, who is the man behind the prosecutions in the insider trading case and many other high-profile cases.






India has reacted very strongly against her arrest and the subsequent treatment. India has cited the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations which provides immunity to diplomats, while the US maintains that it followed "standard procedures". There has been a nationwide protest against the US action. Much criticism centres on the fact that Khobragade was handcuffed in public, searched naked and was made to share a cell with drug addicts.





The Indian government has asserted that it will intervene "effectively and specifically" to ensure the dignity of its diplomat and has conveyed its displeasure  to the USA. Subsequently, several Indian politicians and officials including the Union Home Minister, Rahul Gandhi, Narendra Modi and Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar registered their protest by not meeting the US Congressional delegation visiting India.




Meanwhile, India has transferred Devyani to its Permanent UN Mission in New York to afford her complete diplomatic immunity.




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