End to India-US messy affair?
Devyani Khobragade, India's former deputy consul general in New York who returned to India, has moved a US court to seek dismissal of the visa fraud case citing lack of personal jurisdiction
With the bitter India-US row over the arrest of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade defused with her departure for India, both sides are hoping to bring the “important” relationship back on track in the weeks ahead.
One sentiment expressed during the discussions to work out adeal over the treatment of Devyani Khobragade, who was then India’s deputy consul general in New York, was that this was amess-up that should not have happened. “We need to work together to see that these things don’t happen again,” sources said, suggesting that the “big picture guys” in the US diplomatic establishment apparently failed to stop in time the “sectoral bureaucracy” that chose to criminalise what was essentially a civildispute.
Khobragade, 39, left for India on Thursday after informing a US court in New York that the US State department had approved her accreditation as counsellor at India’s permanent mission at the United Nations to accord her full diplomatic immunity.
Meanwhile as a federal grand jury in New York indicted Khobragade on charges of visa fraud and underpaying her housekeeper and nanny, Sangeeta Richard, whom she brought from India, the US asked New Delhi to waive her immunity. When India declined, US asked India to send Khobragade back home. In turn, New Delhi asked the US to withdraw a counsellor rank US diplomat from India, who was allegedly involved in arranging to bring Richard’s family to US.
Sources said the diplomatic option was pursued once it became clear that there was no meeting ground on the legal route with the US unwilling to go below a “misdemeanour” charge while the idea of an Indian diplomat facing criminal charges was out of question for New Delhi. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said, “We regret that the Indian government felt it was necessary to expel one of our diplomatic personnel,” she said. “We expect and hope that this will now reach a to closure, and the Indians will take significant steps with us to improve our relationship.” The charges against Khobragade still remain in place. The US request for a waiver of her immunity is an indication of the seriousness of the charges that have been waged against her.
“Prior to her departure, it was conveyed to her and to the Government of India that she is not permitted to return to the United States except to submit to the jurisdiction of the court,” Psaki said, adding that Khobragade had lost her diplomatic immunity and “a warrant may be issued for her arrest”.
Khobragade’s lawyer Daniel Arshack submitted a four-page “motion seeking dismissal of action for lack of personal jurisdiction” on January 9, with Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn of the US District Court of the Southern District of New York.