India-US row: Voices from the streets

Diplomatic spat between New Delhi and Washington over diplomat’s arrest has triggered strong emotions in both countries.

Protests have been held across Indian cities, deploring the arrest of Indian envoy in New York [AP]

The ongoing row between New Delhi and Washington over the arrest and alledged mistreatment of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade, has stired strong emotions on the streets of India and the US.

Khobragade is accused of paying less to her nanny than that is stipulated in the US. She also faces visa fraud charges. 

The diplomat has denied the charges, but the wage dispute between her and the nanny has escalated into a major spat between the two global powers.

Angered by her public arrest – in course of which she was strip-searched and lodged in a cell with drug addicts – India has removed police barricades outside the US embassy in New Delhi and ordered all US staff to surrender their identity cards. Curbs have also been placed on some of the privileges they enjoyed.

Showkat Shafi and Ali Mustafa spoke to people on the streets of India and the US.

Desiree Anwar Nagpa, 30, PR Consultant

Desiree Anwar Nagpal [Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]

As an Indian citizen I believe that the treatment with the Indian celebrities and lately with Diplomat Devyani Khobragade is not justified .

The American law has been unfair with many Indians in the past in terms of travelling and specially harassing them at the airport: a good example was acclaimed Indian actor Shahrukh Khan who was stopped at the airport when he was visiting for promoting his movie.

The current action taken against Devyani was not only extreme and harsh but inhuman. She was arrested, stripped and cavity searched instead of following the protocols a diplomat is supposed to be treated with. I am sure India would cooperate with the US authorities, had they handled the situation more aptly if they felt that Devyani had tampered with the American system.

India has rightfully stood up and well confronted the US authorities by boycotting and uprooting the security and diplomatic advantages given to the Americans in India. Transferring Devyani to the UN was a smart move.

Personally I suggest that the US does apologize maintaining their decorum and investigate the matter fairly, mending their diplomatic ties with India and refrain from creating such embarrassing situations in future.

Arun Vishwanathan, 32, Assistant Professor

Arun Vishwanathan [Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]

The recent arrest and subsequent treatment meted out to Khobragade has thrown another challenge at the India-US bilateral relationship which has been going through a trough.

Given the meek nature of Indian responses to earlier such incidents involving former officials and diplomats including former President Abdul Kalam and Indian Ambassador to the US Meera Shankar, not many in the US would have anticipated the nature and extent of Indian response.

Clearly, India seems to be pursuing a ‘tit for tat’ strategy by withdrawing privileges extended to the US consular staff and other officials bringing them at par with the courtesies extended to Indian officials in the US.

Especially given the fact that India is one of US’s closest strategic allies, such responses are useful in conveying India’s displeasure to the US administration. However, it is important that such responses do not result in any unintended lasting damage to the bilateral relationship.


Sameer Patil, 32, Security analyst

Sameer Patil [Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]

We need to make a distinction between charges levelled against Khobragade and the treatment meted out to her by the NYPD.

The way she was handcuffed in public and treated in custody is not justified compared to the charges levelled against her.

If you recall the Raymond David case in Pakistan in 2011, the US government had gone to a great length in justifying the diplomatic immunity enjoyed by Mr Davis, despite the criminal charges against him.

Though Khobragade is not eligible for diplomatic immunity, informally worldwide such courtesies are extended to the consular staff also.

One then fails to understand the tough posture of the US authorities in what is basically a civil case.

In my view, this incident is not going to majorly impact the India-US bilateral relations, notwithstanding the snubs from the Indian officials to the visiting US congressional delegation and measures taken by the local authorities against the US consular officials here. Governments of both the countries are wise enough to understand the critical significance of this relationship and will work their way out of the current tensions.

Purvi Thacker, Journalist, New York

Purvi Thacker [Al Jazeera]

Devyani Khobragade comes from a privileged background and is trying to exploit her position.

The whole concept of taking a nanny from India, reeks of exploitation – there are many things we don’t know about but if you take the case on face value, then there is merit to it.

As an Indian in America – I think this has escalated because of Devyani’s position of authority.

There are many cases in which Indian employers don’t pay their help adequately, but those cases never get the same limelight as Devyani and Sangeeta’s cases have.

This issue has blown up because of Devyani’s public persona and position of strength.

The Indian backlash against the US is very petty too – the fact that they’re doing this highlights the privilege and class of Devyani and her connections.

Amit Verma, 37, PR Professional

Amit Verma [Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]

This is a real unfortunate incident, rather rude one from US yet again. Many Indian dignatories including ex-president APJ Abdul Kalam Azad to former defence minister George Fernandes have been a victim to the ‘so called’ frisking by US state marshals.

It is our government’s job to respond and respond firmly to the US authorities. Removing barricades from US Embassy in Delhi is a visual treat but would like to see more of strategic and firm measures to respond on this issue.

I have a few fundamental questions to ask the US.

Is this a way to treat lady diplomat? Do you term frisking as making someone strip?

Do you put diplomats in the same cell where you keep gangsters, drug addicts and criminals?

India has been perceived as a very soft nation and that is the biggest reason everyone other country tries to take advantage of the same – be it Pakistan, China or US. I am not pin pointing any political party, but our so called leaders are to be blamed for this and it’s time we show the world that India will not bend whomsoever it is as far as women integrity is concerned.

HAMDULLA SAYEED, Indian Member of Parliament

HAMDULLA SAYEED [Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]

It is indeed sad that our deputy consul general was treated in such a way.

Any act of mistreatment of any Indian anywhere in the world is unjust and calls for an introspective solution.

The matter was raised in Lok Sabha (upper house of parliament) and the government has taken due care to discuss the matter with other parties, with authorities in United States.

Keeping the national pride, respect for sovereignty of the country along the need to sort issues as and when they arise in consensual way juxtaposed with mutual respect for each other always been and shall always be hallmarks of our stand in realm of foreign affairs with other nations.

DR.Amna  Mirza, 27, Assistant Professor

DR.AMNA MIRZA [Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]

India and United States have had cordial relations; both being believers in ethos of liberal democracy.

There have been instances where the nation has observed how US has mistreated Indian citizens owing to its legal norms

As far as the matter is about not obeying the law of the land, it is hardly an issue.

However if discrimination or insult surges from prejudice or bias from a developed mighty power syndrome, it needs to be deliberated in perspective of hurting a country’s national sentiment and an insult to its institutional set-up. Diplomats, artists are like a country’s representative. They are image of the soft power.

Cordial diplomacy demands respect for dignity of individuals of the nation.

To be a super power and be particular about the legal aspect of the system does not mean that it should come at the expense of mistreatment of citizens of other nations.

Due sensitivity is the need of the hour, not only in treatment of diplomats but each and every citizen.

Further mere condemning the case shall do no good. It is the onus of the state and the people to usher in a thought process where citizenry needs to unite for cause of respect for fellow members in light of national unity.

Madhurendra Sinha, 60, Senior journalist

Madhurendra Sinha [Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]

The treatment meted out to Devyani is deplorable. The way US authorities behaved shows their arrogance and power display.

United States has always been casual towards the rights of citizens of other countries.

It is only concerned about the rights of the citizens of its own country. This is not the first time that an Indian has been humiliated.

Even our former President Dr. Abdul Kalam was humiliated at an airport in the US. But enough is enough and it was great that India put its foot down. Now US must apologies.   

Rejaul Karim Laskar, 36, Research Scholar/Author

Rejaul Karim Laskar [Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]

We must keep in mind that the very nature of the responsibilities of a diplomat makes certain privileges and immunities – must for them in order to enable them to function effectively.

This principle has been universally recognised and codified by the Vienna Conventions on Diplomatic Relations as well as Vienna Convention on Consular relations.

The incidents involving Deputy Consul General of India, Devyani Khobragade is the most recent example of such flagrant violations.

Take for example the Article 40 of the Convention which stipulates: “The receiving State shall treat consular officers with due respect and shall take all appropriate steps to prevent any attack on their person, freedom or dignity.” The barbaric “cavity search” is probably the highest level of outrage to human dignity and especially to the dignity of a woman.

Similarly the Article 41 of the Convention stipulates that except for grave crimes, consular officers shall not be committed to prison or be liable to any other form of restriction on their personal freedom save in execution of a judicial decision of final effect.” It also stipulates “the proceedings shall be conducted with the respect due to him “

So it makes clear that any restriction on personal freedom (such as arrest) can be done only for executing a final judgment and not during the trial period like an ordinary criminal. And the arrest of Devyani Khobragade is not tenable under the Convention and barbaric treatment of “cavity search” is height of dishonor for any diplomat and cannot be neglected.

India should make it clear to the US that India’s observance of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and Vienna Convention on Consular Relations vis-à-vis American diplomats in India will be conditional on the US strictly abiding by these two conventions vis-à-vis Indian diplomats in the US.

The slew of measures taken by India over the last few days, downgrading of privileges of American diplomats and consular officers is a welcome step. This will deter the Americans from repeating the Khobragade episode with other Indian diplomats in future. 

Vijay Rangesh Kuunnavakkam, Biostatistician, Chicago

Vijay Rangesh Kuunnavakkam [Al Jazeera]

Indians need to realize that the United States is not India.

Words and commitments matter here (in the US) ,if Devyani did do something wrong then she needs to be held accountable, but if she hasn’t done anything illegal then the US government owes her an  apology for mistreating her in public.




Source: Al Jazeera