Mum's the Word for Uncle Sam, Gives India Jitters - The New Indian Express

Mum's the Word for Uncle Sam, Gives India Jitters

Published: 05th Jan 2014 08:13:12 AM

Next week will be a crucial period in Indo-US relations, with India waiting for the US political leadership to take the reins to issue a G-1 visa and ID to Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade, even as New Delhi marshals legal argument to prove she had complete diplomatic immunity at time of arrest due to earlier UN accreditation.

Meanwhile, MEA seems to be tightening the screws further, with the latest move being to send a notice to the American Centre on Friday to stop screening movies without obtaining a licence. The notice asked the American Centre to comply with Government of

India laws and Delhi government regulations and obtain licence for screening films by January 20.

This step follows a series of other measures taken by the Indian government to bring US diplomatic institutions in line with strict reciprocity accorded to Indian diplomats—following the December 12 arrest of deputy consul general Khobragade for paying less than minimum wage to her domestic assistant Sangeeta Richard. India also had been furious that Richard’s family—husband and two children—had been spirited away on special visas for kin of trafficking victims, just two days before the arrest in New York.

The notice on movie screenings comes a day after the US state department had to clarify that a video being circulated on social networks was not that of the Indian diplomat being strip-searched by US marshals. “This video, which we are aware of, is absolutely not footage of Ms Khobragade. We would call it a dangerous and provocative fabrication,” state deputy spokesperson Marie Harf said on Friday in Washington.

This has been one of the strongest words from the state department on the Khobragade case. The video shows a woman screaming while being searched by police in custody.

“This hoax video, which I think has appeared on some news websites without obviously confirming its authenticity, because its not, we find it deeply troubling, irresponsible and reckless and condemn, again, this dangerous fabrication. I want to make very clear this is not a video of her,” Harf said.

Meanwhile, India is awaiting some signal from the US side that the G-1 visa will be given to Khobragade, so that she gets diplomatic immunity in line with her new position in the Permanent Mission of India to UN. Khobragade had been transferred to the UN permanent mission after her arrest, with New Delhi offering this to Washington as an “escape clause” from the current mess.

There is urgency in obtaining the G-1 visa as Khobragade’s next court hearing is on January 13, when she is expected to be indicted. The G-1 visa will get her a new identity card, which provides her immunity from future arrest or court summons.

If the visa is not given by January 13, then New Delhi feels that it would mean a strong signal that US does not want to de-escalate the matter, which has been dominating the ‘strategic partnership’ since last month.

After notice on movie screenings, India has the option to take action on other issues related to the US embassy like the running of a salon inside the American School. “All these actions are to show that we are serious,” said an official source.

So far, US Secretary of State John Kerry—currently on a tour of West Asia—has expressed regret over the circumstances of the arrest, which has been reiterated by US ambassador Nancy Powell and state department spokesperson.

The US side may have taken note, but they have to “walk the talk”, said official sources. The long holiday season due to Christmas and New Year has probably led to a slowing down of decision-making required to undo the knots—with “complete radio silence from their side” being used to describe the current reaction on the ongoing talks.

With US president Barack Obama returning from his Hawaii vacation on January 5, there is hope that the political leadership will take note that US-India relations have derailed. “If the political leadership does not take notice, then we are really in trouble,” said sources.

Meanwhile, South block is also properly preparing to give legal weight to the argument that Khobragade’s accreditation to UN as advisor in August 26, entitled her to full diplomatic immunity and was there valid at time of arrest.

The legal eagles are going through the 1947 headquarters agreement between United States and United Nations, as well as the 1946 General Convention on Privileges and Immunities on the United Nations.

As per the general conventions, representatives, whose definition also include advisors, enjoy “immunity from personal arrest or detention” while “exercising their functions”. India has asserted that even representatives to UN, whose accreditation don’t require a visa from US, have entirely full diplomatic immunity, as per the statutes.

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Comments(11)

“If the political leadership does not take notice, then we are really in trouble.” GOI just doesn't get it. In the US politicians cannot intervene in the course of judicial proceedings (beyond filing briefs, etc.). Get over it, it's not going to happen. On the other hand, Obama controls the State Department and can order his officials to issue the diplomatic card that would confer full immunity. However, given the strong stance taken since 2010 by the US against abuse of domestics and human trafficking, it is highly unlikely the US will be anxious to facilitate DK to evade justice. Finally, the suggestion that shutting down a cinema shows GOI's seriousness is laughable; it is only the GOI that fails to see that.

it all feels like GOI's machinery is run by a bunch of "Brainiacs".

I expected the Indian media to be more responsible than the Indian politicians and Beaurocrats and the larger population of India who are ignorant about US laws. Having lived in the US for the last 20 years, Let me tell you something that India as a whole has failed to understand. If you truly understand the US neither is going to happen. (Dropping of charges or issuing apology) . Nor will US let go of law-breakers who be it the Pirates, China,Russia,India or for that matter even if he/she is an american. Inspite of all the partisan politics that you hear in the news, American citizens have faith in the Government and the justice system. I am sure US will behave in a predictable manner and it will be only a loss of face for India if they continue this intransigence,Doing silly things like removing barricade, stopping screening of movies etc will only hurt India. I have 2 words of advise 'Grow up' and gain respect for rightful cause not for a diplomat seeking shelter under immunity.

Perfectly said!! Hope some idiot from goi reads ur post!!

Dear Mr.Rab, R U still living in US? Afraid of any action by local Americans against you immigrants? You told that they will not let go of law breakers,pirates etc. even it is from Russia ,China etc.But these acting world police were not able to suppress Somali pirates from international waters.Entering other countries and destroying nations like Iraq,Vietnam and now Afghanistan where you have no rights to do so.

Can't expect much.You US people originally migrated from Britain and destroyed Red Indians with their beautiful culture for personal gain.Brought slaves from Africa and destroyed so many black people.But now they are overtaking you in population & will rule the nation.As prediction says"even if you fly like an eagle(your national bird is also a golden eagle) I will bring you down"

Dear Mahesh and Rab, Why did US fall head over heals to rescue Raymond Daves from Lahore after he killed 2 people in broad daylight.?Why did US rescue its diplomat who killed a Kenyan citizen without allowing him to undergo trial there? What is your answer for ill treatment meted out Ms Krithika Biswas daughter of Indian Vice Counsel who is innocent and was arrested without informing her parents?.Why did US bend backwards to diplomatic immunity to Saudi Price Turki retrospectively after he committed a crime? why did US evacuvate Mrs Sangeetha's Family without informing the GOI? Why is Sangeetha staying in the USA illegally after her passport was revoked by GOI? Please do not parrot American system and try to be MORE AMERICAN THAN THE AMERICANS.I am sure Preet Barara and his company cannot touch the Russians and the Chinese even with the little fingure. For some people India bashing is a fashion. Very shortly , we expect the Americans to eat crow..India will continue to stare....

Very well said Mr Ramesh. There is an element of self interest in the administration of justice by the US justice department. Justice skewed in US national interest is always right because of her might. The criminal act of surveillance by hacking into e-mails, other nation's confidential documents and electronic eavesdropping of all private conversations is sought to be morally justified in the name of national security and therefore those acts are legal. The Indians who are baying for Khobragade's blood in self righteous hypocritical anger, overlook manipulation of legal principals by the US to safeguard her own interest.

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