Post Khobragade, India, US set to resume business as usual
With Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade back in India and a US diplomat sent back to America in a reciprocal gesture, India and the US look all set to resume business as usual.
In fact, both sides are holding an event in the very place where it all started - New York. On Tuesday, the consulate general of India in New York along with the US department of homeland security will hold a ceremony in which stolen Indian artefacts worth $1.5 million will be returned.
Observing that India-US ties are "not a one issue one relationship", external affairs ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said at a media briefing that "we will take each day as it comes, because it is important to look both back and forward".
He said the homeland security department would be returning the Indian artefacts, including 10th century stone carvings of Vishnu and Parvati, which were stolen from a village in Rajasthan.
On Dec 12 Khobragade, who was India's deputy consul general in New York, was arrested, handcuffed and strip-searched over charges of alleged visa fraud and underpaying her nanny, Sangeeta Richard. Khobragade's maid had alleged she was overworked and underpaid by her, a charge the diplomat has denied.
The incident threw India-US ties into a tailspin, as India demanded an apology and withdrawing of all charges. The US stuck to its stand that the law would take its own course and it would not withdraw the charges.
Khobragade was moved to India's permanent mission at the UN in New York. The US last week gave the 39-year-old diplomat a G1 visa according her diplomatic immunity but also asked her immunity to be waived, which India refused.
She was asked to leave the US, and flew back home on Friday night, leaving behind her family.
India, in a reciprocal gesture, asked the US to withdraw a diplomat from the embassy in Delhi who was seen as involved in the Khobragade affair.
The diplomat, who the spokesperson did not name, left India Sunday night, he informed. The US had voiced regret over India's move to expel the diplomat.
India has already withdrawn the airport passes given to US diplomats in India and the special diplomatic identity cards issued to them as part of reciprocal measures after the arrest of Khobragade.
The US was also been asked to discontinue all commercial activities from its premises without proper licence, a move that is going to hurt not just the large American diplomatic community but the American expatriate population here that also enjoyed the privileges of the American club, bar and other duty-free facilities that the embassy was allowed to have in what is diplomatically known as the 'wink-and-nod' reciprocal system.
Referring to the upcoming event at New York, Akbaruddin said: "The point is that in the same place where we have difficulties, we also have collaborations and cooperations ... Our relationship is extremely broad and wide-ranging."
The spokesperson also denied reports of more potential Khobragade-like cases in the US, saying the Indian government was considering a proposal to change the status of Indian domestic helps, or Indian-based domestic assistants (IBDA).
He said a proposal "considering significant changes in the status" of such helps that Indian diplomats take to the US and Europe is under consideration with the government since the beginning of last year.
The government is studying the legal aspect of it as well as the financial implications of the IBDA.
Akbaruddin said senior officials of the ministries of external affairs and finance were trying to work out a solution.
(Posted on 13-01-2014)