Devyani Khobragade row 'closure' not on agenda, says fuming India

Written by PTI | New Delhi | Updated: Jan 14 2014, 02:36am hrs
The US may be hoping that Devyani Khobragade episode will come to "closure" with the senior Indian diplomat's departure for home, but India today indicated a different viewpoint, saying it will move forward in the relationship based on "its experience" in the past.

India has already made it clear that it will continue to press for dropping of visa fraud charges against senior diplomat Devyani Khobragade, who was arrested on December 12 in New York and subsequently indicted by a jury in the case.

Immediately after the indictment, Khobragade was asked to leave by the US, which also granted her full diplomatic immunity.

"We will take each day as it comes because it is important to look back and forward. The relationship between India and the US is not a one-issue relationship. We have a series of issues that we are engaged. We will take this matter after carefully examining what has been our experience in the past and we will move forward on this broad relationship that we have," Spokesperson in the Ministry of External Affairs said here.

At a briefing in Washington after the departure of Devyani Khobragade, State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki said, "This has clearly been a challenging time in the US-India relationship. We expect and hope that this will now come to closure and the Indians will now take significant steps with us to improve our relationship and return it to a more constructive place."

Meanwhile, drawing lessons from the Devyani Khobragade episode, MEA has also decided to "vigorously" pursue its proposal with finance ministry to make "significant" changes in the status of domestic assistants like maids helping Indian diplomats in the US and the Europe.

Noting that the proposal was in "gestation" from more than an year with finance ministry, the Spokesperson said the ministry hopes to pursue vigorously the proposal, which has legal, financial and visa status implications.

With nearly three cases involving senior Indian diplomats and their Indian-Based Domestic Assistants (IBDA) occurring in last three years in the US, the government had initiated the process of reviewing the policy dealing with the issue.

Under the MEA proposal, the IBDAs, who are entitled to boarding and lodging, return passage and holiday passage and same medical care as their bosses apart from cash payments, can be taken as contractual employees of government. At present, they are treated as quasi-official staff.

As a fallout of Devyani Khobragade episode, the Indian diplomats are said to be worried about how the Americans will now act against them since their domestic helps also come on A3 visa like that of Khobragade. The visa subjects them to US laws.

There are about around 14 such diplomats in the US who have maids currently.

Meanwhile, talking about the wide range of points of engagements between India and the US, the Spokesperson said that tomorrow the consulate general of India in New York along with the Homeland Security will have a ceremony where stolen Indian artifacts worth USD 1.5 million will be returned to India.

"So, the point is that it is the same place where we had difficulties, we also have collaboration and cooperation. And that's the nature of our relationship. It's extremely broad, its wide-ranging, and you will have, on a day-to-day basis, a number of interactions," he added.

Asked about whether the extra privileges of the US diplomats which were withdrawn to enforce "strict reciprocity" will be restored, the Spokesperson said there was no change in the status quo.