India and US try to defuse ‘envoy crisis’

Backdoor diplomacy said to be underway to mend ties following spat over Indian diplomat’s arrest in New York.

The diplomat's arrest in New York on December 12 triggered protests across India [EPA]
The diplomat's arrest in New York on December 12 triggered protests across India [EPA]

Officials in New Delhi and Washington are said to be engaged in backroom talks to defuse the crisis arising out of the issue of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade’s arrest in New York.

India has asked Washington to drop the charges against Khobragade and apologise for its actions. But Washingon has refused to accede, instead promising to review the circumstances leading to the arrest.

Amidst the harsh language exchanged between the otherwise friendly countries, top ministers in both the US and Indian government have stressed that nothing should be done to spoil their relationship.

Reports quoting US state department spokeswoman Jen Psaki in Washington said at stake was the $900 billion in trade. She was quoted as saying that thousands of jobs in both countries depended on their friendly trade.

In India, foreign minister Salman Khurshid said the episode should not be allowed to derail the valuable relationship between the two countries, reports said.

On whether the  issue would be resolved soon, Khurshid,  quoted in the Times of India, said, “World keeps moving forward, world never dies, world never stops. Something will happen.”  He hoped that the mutual relationship would return to an even keel.

While the two countries do not seem to have much progress at the level of rhetoric, reports indicate that backdoor diplomacy may be at work since the end of last week.

US privileges down

But the talks have not come in the way of New Delhi going forward with its moves to dilute the privileges given to US diplomats in India. 

Monday was the deadline for the US staff to hand in their special identity cards to the Indian government, and it remains so, reports said.

Khobragade, India’s Deputy Consul General in New York, was briefly arrested on December 12 on charges that she underpaid her nanny Sangeetha Richards and lied in the visa application form about the wage she intended paying her.

What upset the Indian government was the fact that she was handcuffed in public, strip-searched and lodged in a cell with drug addicts, like any common criminal. New Delhi complained that the US police did not take into account her diplomatic immunity and flouted the Vienna convention on treatment of foreign envoys.

Meanwhile,  Khobragade has been moved to the Indian mission at the United Nations in New York where she stands to gain full diplomatic immunity and out of reach of US law enforcement. 

Source : Al Jazeera

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