India and US act to cool diplomatic row

Officials from both countries work quietly to defuse crisis arising out of Indian envoy’s arrest in New York.

The arrest and strip-search of Indian diplomat has caused an outrage in India [Reuters]
The arrest and strip-search of Indian diplomat has caused an outrage in India [Reuters]

Backroom diplomacy between India and the United States over the arrest of a New Delhi diplomat seems to be working, with both countries acting to defuse the crisis.

Devyani Khobragade, deputy consul-general in New York, has been accorded employee status at India’s mission at the United Nations paving the way for full diplomatic immunity.

According to all indications, the state department will clear her new status which will place her out of reach of US law enforcement.

On Monday, the US also waived Khobragade’s pre-trial appearance in court in the run-up to the main hearing on charges that she filled in wrong visa information for her nanny and underpaid her wages.

In return, India agreed to go slow on diluting the privileges US diplomats enjoy in the country.

The government extended by three days the deadline given to the US personnel for returning their special diplomatic identity cards and information on salaries paid to local staff employed by US diplomats.

Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid however, said that New Delhi was looking at reciprocity in the long run on the issue, according to reports.

No anomaly in pay

Meanwhile, India contested the US claim that Khobragade underpaid her nanny, Sangeetha Richards, saying that the entry of $4,500 as payment was an oversight.

Quoting a contract between Khobragade and Richards in November last year before the nanny started her employment, officials said that as per that there was no anomaly between what was promised and what was paid.

According to reports, the diplomat had to pay only $1,560 per month to the nanny. These were adjusted with the payments the nanny had to pay for utilities. There were also occasions when expenses were paid in cash and receipts received for those, said reports quoting the Indian counter-argument.

Khobragade was arrested on December 12 following her nanny’s charge that she had been overworked and underpaid. The Indian envoy was also accused of submitting false documents to obtain a visa for the Indian housekeeper.

What erupted into a controversy was the diplomat’s arrest, her being handcuffed in public and then subjecting her to strip-search followed by her custody in a cell with drug addicts.

India cited the Vienna convention to say her diplomatic immunity was not taken into account for the arrest, while the US argued that immunity pertained only to her consular work.

Trade between the US and India is estimated at $900bn providing thousands of jobs in both countries.

Source : Al Jazeera

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