Khobragade, the Rogue Diplomat

The worst ever diplomatic stand off between U.S. and India


Devyani Khobragade, 39, is the rogue Indian diplomat whose actions have led to the worst diplomatic row between U.S. and India. Khobragade was India’s deputy consul general at New York; she also had the additional charge of women’s affairs. The present row began when she was arrested by NYPD in front of her daughter’s school. According to her, she was cavity searched before her arrest and then held with drug addicts while she was under police custody. NYPD sources deny cavity searching the diplomat.

The manner in which Khobragade was arrested by NYPD goes to show that she was under surveillance for some time before she was arrested. She appeared before a magistrate, and was later released upon furnishing $ 250,000 in bail bonds.

This began the diplomatic row between the U.S. and India. In a tit for tat move, the Indian government withdrew most of the facilities, including security afforded to U.S. diplomatic staff in India. Further, the Indian government demanded that U.S. seek unconditional apology for the humiliating and barbaric treatment of  Khobragade. The Indian government also wanted U.S. to drop all charges against the diplomat.

U.S. Secretary of State, John F. Kerry, deemed the arrest unfortunate but failed short in giving an apology in the matter. Additionally, he clarified to the Indian authorities that neither he nor anyone else had the power to stop judicial proceedings in the U.S., once the process has been formally initiated.

The charges against Khobragade were of visa fraud and misrepresenting facts. The rogue diplomat was charged with bringing to the U.S. a nanny-cum-housekeeper. According to the contract, Khobragade was to pay her $ 4,500 per month. The maid on her part testified before the Manhattan court that she was made to sign a new contract under duress, and according to the terms of this new contract, Khobragade paid her $ 3 per hour. The maid also said on record she was often verbally and physically abused in the Khobragade household.

As the trial proceeded, it became clear that Khobragade would be found guilty of the charges against her. Therefore, the Indian government started exerting more pressure on U.S. diplomats as reprisal for the ill treatment of Khobragade. Days before the final judgement against Khobragade, the Indian authorities asked the U.S. embassy to discontinue its commercial ventures that were being conducted on the embassy premises in New Delhi. The embassy club was raided and several sanctions were imposed on the U.S. diplomats in New Delhi and across the country.

In a desperate move, India transferred Khobragade to its permanent mission at the UN to grant her full diplomatic immunity of which she was not entitled as a consular.¬†After all this, nothing changed as far as the trial was concerned and, as expected, she was indicted for visa fraud. The maximum punishment in such cases is 15 years of imprisonment. This, perhaps, was too much for the Indian government to take. They negotiated a hard bargain by which Khobragade left India. This was achieved because India refused to waive diplomatic immunity in Khobragade’s case.

This seemed to be the end of the row between the two countries but, in reality, it was not to be. Widespread protests started against the U.S. during which effigies of President Obama were torched and the U.S. flag trampled under foot. Due to the tensions, the scheduled visit of the U.S. Secretary for Energy was postponed. In addition, these strained relations between the two countries are costing billions of dollars in economic affairs.

In short, India has expelled a U.S. diplomat from India. The row started by Khobragade, the rogue diplomat, is going to take some time before normalcy is achieved in relations between the U.S. and India.

By Iftikhar Tariq Khanzada



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