Devyani Episode Shows Waning Respect for India
By G Parthasarathy | Published: 05th January 2014 12:00 AM |
In a flagrant breach of diplomatic norms and practices, India’s Deputy Consul General in New York, Devyani Khobragade, a mother of two school-going children, was unceremoniously arrested just outside the school where she had dropped her children. She was subjected to shocking indignities, including repeated handcuffing, stripping, swabbing, and held together with common criminals and drug addicts, before being produced handcuffed, in court. The principal perpetrator of these indignities was an Indian-born State Attorney in New York, Preet Bharara. Devyani was subjected to these indignities for allegedly underpaying her Indian servant, whose terms of employment are determined not by her, but by Government of India. The action also violated Article 47 of the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, under which the terms of employment of home-based employees of the Consulate or Consular official are determined by the official, who does not even require a work permit.
The Devyani episode comes in the wake of actions by activist groups and courts in the US to undermine the dignity of eminent Indians. When Sonia Gandhi was in New York recently for medical treatment, she was served a court summon in a case filed by purported victims of the 1984 riots. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh received court summons from a Washington court for allegedly rewarding police officials in Punjab for their role during militancy in the state. Similar summons were issued to Minister Kamal Nath and Punjab CM Parkash Singh Badal. The tenures of former Consul General Prabhu Dayal and former Consul Dr Neena Malhotra in New York became a virtual hell, by domestic help filing cases to ultimately seek a Green Card, aided and abetted by overzealous local officials and Church groups. How generously does the US treat former Indian employees? Seven Indians, including crew, were killed in hijacking of PAN AM Flight 73 in 1986. Millions of dollars received as compensation from Libya after the hijacking was paid to Americans. Not a single cent was paid to the families of Indian passengers and crew.
We are now told that there can be no retroactive immunity for Devyani. In 1982, Prince Turki bin Abdul-Aziz of Saudi Arabia was accused of holding an Egyptian woman against her will in Miami and charged with assaulting US officials investigating the matter. The US State Department promptly moved to give the prince diplomatic immunity retroactively—a decision upheld by a US Federal Court. Russian diplomats in New York, including many from the Russian Consulate General, were recently charged with committing healthcare fraud. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Rybakov declared that the charges were “fabricated”. Quite predictably, not a single Russian diplomat was arrested or “strip-searched”. President Vladimir Putin would have had Americans similarly dealt with in Saint Petersburg if the Americans sought to arrest or handcuff a single Russian diplomat.
It is not surprising that these US actions against our diplomats and dignitaries come at a time when the Obama administration’s interest in relations with India is declining. The world now sees India as a country with a lame duck government on its way out. The lustre of an economically vibrant India open to business, trade and investment is no longer visible, as growth rates slide, inflation spirals, vital defence acquisitions are postponed, the fiscal deficit soars and emergency measures are undertaken to head off a balance of payments crisis. We have also not done our image any good by acquiescing in growing Chinese intrusions into what has been our territory. Delinking dialogue from terrorism has conveyed an inability to punish perpetrators of the 26/11 outrage. Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, which genuinely seek better relations with India, feel let down. A country is respected when it is politically resilient, economically vibrant, militarily strong and cares for the welfare and dignity of nationals. firstname.lastname@example.org