In its eagerness to arrest Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade, rocking ties between the two countries, US law enforcement agencies seem to have committed more than one grievous error.
Contrary to what US officials have said, Khobragade at the time of the arrest enjoyed “full diplomatic immunity” as she was an adviser with the Indian permanent mission at the United Nations along with her job as deputy consul-general in New York, reports said on Friday.
In the aftermath of the arrest on December 12, US officials justified it saying as deputy consul-general Khobragade enjoyed only “consular immunity”, meaning her immunity only pertained to her consular work, and not full immunity.
But it now transpires that Khobragade on August 26 this year was accredited as “adviser” at the Indian mission in the United Nations which automatically granted her full diplomatic immunity.
Reports, quoting government sources in New Delhi, said the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations Article 4 Section 11A specifies “immunities from personal arrest or detention and from the seizure of their personal baggage” of all representatives of member-countries to the United Nations. The Indian diplomat comes under this category.
By arresting Khobragade, who enjoyed full diplomatic immunity, the law enforcement officers responsible may have opened themselves up for legal action, the reports said.
The US’s alleged blunder related to Khobragade’s immunity comes close on the heels of the purported misreading of her visa application form by the law enforcement officer who effected her arrest.
The officer wrongly understood Khobragade’s revelation of her salary amounting to $4,500 per month in the visa form as the amount to be paid to her nanny Sangeetha Richard. With this misperception he arrested the diplomat as she paid Richard $1,560 per month (which was as per her understanding with the nanny).
India had informed the US about Khobragade’s accreditation with the United Nations at the time of her arrest.
In response, agencies quoting state department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf said, “We have been advised by the Government of India that Ms Khobragade was notified to the United Nations as a member of India’s delegation to the United Nations General Assembly in September. We are currently looking into the matter.”
With the US in a holiday mode as it is the season of Christmas and New Year, these issues are expected to be tackled once normal work resumes in the first week of January, the reports said.
The Indian envoy’s arrest and the rough treatment meted out to her, including handcuffing, strip-search and lodging her with drug addicts infuriated the Indian government leading to retaliatory steps.
This has resulted in the severe paring down of US diplomatic privileges in India, bringing them on par with low-key privileges enjoyed by Indian diplomats in the US.
The arrest and treatment of Khobragade also severely strained ties between the two friendly countries whose trade volume is around $900bn per year and on which depends thousands of jobs in both countries.