Defiant US Refuses to Drop Case on Diplomat
By Devirupa Mitra | ENS | Published: 21st December 2013 10:37 AM |
After a day of high-pitched words, India’s relatively muted response to US State Department’s categorical dismissal of the possibility of charges being dropped against Devyani Khobragade was an indication that diplomatic space was being created for a ‘face-saver’ to provide technical relief to the senior diplomat who has been accused of visa fraud. “We are not in any way walking back from those... charges,” State Department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf said during a daily briefing on Thursday.
External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid refused to comment on Harf’s statement saying he could not “respond to different voices”. “I believe my duty and entitlement is to be in conversation with my counterpart Secretary (of State John) Kerry,” he said. Kerry is on a year-end family vacation to the Philippines and was unlikely to call Khurshid. Indicating the continuation of talks to find a solution, Khurshid added that “some parts of the diplomacy have to be done in public view and some parts of diplomacy have to be done with some degree of discreetness till such times as the diplomatic conversations are concluded”.
Khurshid further said that India and US have a “valuable relation... in which enormous investments have been made, not only by government but by the private sector... We are conscious of this, I am sure they are equally conscious of this”.
Earlier in the day, US ambassador Nancy Powell was huddled with Indian officials at the MEA headquarters to negotiate possible solutions to the rare impasse in Indo-US ties.
Protests against the ill-treatment of Khobragade continued in various cities with a small crowd claiming to be from the Republican Party of India (RPI) vandalising outlets of fast food chains Dominos Pizza and Pizza Hut in Mumbai.
Khobragade for now has been shifted to India’s permanent mission to United Nations where she can get full diplomatic immunity. However, to be a fully functional diplomat accredited to the UN, she requires a new visa and identity card which has to be applied at the State Department’s office of foreign missions. The application is yet to be made. The granting of the new visa would give both countries time to consider the next step, official sources said. Once the visa is granted, Khobragade will not be subject to judicial process and arrests even if US decides to go ahead with the case.