India downgrades privileges of US diplomats

New Delhi brings US diplomats on par with Indian counterparts in the US, in retaliatory move over arrest of its envoy.

A diplomatic row has erupted since Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade was arrested on December 12 [Reuters]
A diplomatic row has erupted since Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade was arrested on December 12 [Reuters]

New Delhi has gone ahead with its move to downgrade privileges of US diplomats on par with their Indian counterparts in the US.

The action, a direct fallout of the arrest and rough treatment of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade in New York, comes even as the two countries were reportedly engaged in talks to defuse the crisis.

The Indian government on Tuesday went ahead with its move to replace the privileged diplomatic identity cards of US diplomats in India with less loaded ones – exactly like the ones Indian consular personnel get in the US.

Also, only the diplomats themselves would get identity cards and not their families – again similar to what Indian diplomats are offered in the US.

Free imports by US diplomatic personnel has been restricted to only six months from the time they report for work in the country.

This is as per the Vienna convention and diplomats around the world are accorded this facility, including in the US, said reports.

Prior to this, US diplomats in India could avail of the free imports for an unlimited duration.

Towards reciprocity

Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid had said that while nothing should be done to disturb the friendly relations between the two countries, the Indian government was clear that there should be perfect reciprocity in the privileges of consular personnel.

There were indications earlier that New Delhi was being accommodative by extending the deadline for the return of identity cards of the US envoys in India.

But this was not to be as a section of Indian officials was of the view that pressure needed to be applied on the US government until Khobragade’s new status as a member of its permanent mission at the United Nations was cleared by the state department, reports said.

As an employee of the UN mission in New York, Khobragade will get full diplomatic immunity and out of reach of US law enforcement.

Her status as member of India’s UN mission however needs to be approved by the state department.

The US administration, in a lenient move, had allowed Khobragade exemption from personal appearance at the pre-trial hearings on the issue of her nanny Sangeetha Richards’s complaint against her that she was overworked and underpaid. Khobragade was also accused of filing incorrect information in her nanny’s visa application form.

The crisis between the two countries, otherwise friendly, erupted on December 12 when Khobragade was arrested in New York, handcuffed in public, strip-searched and lodged in jail with drug addicts until she was released on bail.

India cried foul saying the treatment meted out to her was against the Vienna convention. The US countered saying that diplomatic immunity only applied to consular-related work and not for her personal activities.

Source : Al Jazeera

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