In what could be an indication that behind-the scenes discussions with the United States are beginning to yield results, Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade, charged with visa fraud, is likely to get a waiver from attending the pre-trial process on Monday.
While a proper confirmation is yet to be received, sources said the feedback on the matter has been positive. For India, this is important because Khobragade would have had to be subjected to another round of medical tests and fingerprinting as per US pre-trial procedures.
This was first done on December 16, and South Block had felt that repeating it would mean further humiliation for the diplomat. But more importantly, the two sides appeared to agree that these procedures would only provide more opportunities for negative publicity, thereby reducing the space for finding a resolution.
It is learnt that Khobragade’s application for a G-1 visa and a fresh diplomatic identity card, to which she is entitled after being transferred to India’s Permanent Mission at the UN General Assembly, reached the State Department on Friday. With US offices set to close for Christmas, Indian officials are urging their US counterparts to get an early decision.
While this may provide full diplomatic immunity to Khobragade, the Indian side wants the US to ensure that it also applies to the present case. But this may be a tall order, and the State Department may want to legally examine this aspect, the sources said.
The other problem for the Indian side is that there are some 14 other Indian diplomats in the US with domestic helps. The MEA is pushing to have them immediately declared “service staff” of the government, so that the US authorities and volunteer organisations cannot target them for salary anomalies based on the minimum wage in that area. In fact, in the long term, the MEA wants short-term government contracts for domestic helps.
However, the finance ministry has problems with such a long-term solution. North Block has argued that this could some day prompt demands for turning these contracts into permanent government employment.
The other option being suggested is that MEA be allowed to do bulk hiring and post these persons in missions. Another alternative is to hire local help, but that will be costlier.
Reliable sources said some other options too have been suggested, but a final call will be taken after