On a day of unprecedented diplomatic moves, senior diplomat Devyani Khobragade, who was on Friday indicted for visa fraud and making false statements by a grand jury in the US, returned here late in the night amidst an emotional reunion with her family. The flight carrying Khobragade landed at the IGI Airport around 9.40 pm and she came out of the terminal at 10.40 pm, said her father Uttam Khobragade.
Meanwhile, New Delhi asked the US Embassy to withdraw an official of a similar rank from India, whom they accused of being involved in helping the family of maid Sangeeta Richard get special visas and accompany them. The retaliatory tit-for-tat ‘expulsion’ took place within a period of 24 hours of filing of charges by Manhattan attorney Preet Bharara against Devyani in a New York court for visa fraud and making a false statement to obtain the visa. However, Devyani, having obtained full diplomatic immunity, could not be arrested.
The MEA gave the US Embassy official “little more than 48 hours” to leave India. While the official has not been named, an official said the diplomat had been “involved in a process related to the Khobragade case and subsequent unilateral action by US”. The reference to the “unilateral action” was euphemism for the “evacuation” of Khobragade’s family on December 10 on T-visas given to families of trafficking victims.
In an end to month-long parleys in the case, the result turned out to be a face-saver for both countries. Khobragade got the G-1 visa — which recognises her status of having full diplomatic immunity, but there was no dropping of charges as India had demanded.
“Devyani Khobragade, Counsellor at the Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations in New York, was accorded on 8 January 2014 the privileges and immunities of a diplomatic envoy under terms of Section 15 of the Headquarters Agreement between the United Nations and the United States,” said a statement from the Ministry of External Affairs.
The US State Department then asked India to waive her immunity to allow the prosecution to go forward, but this was denied. “On 9th January 2014, the government of India declined to do so and transferred Counsellor Khobragade to the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi,” said an MEA press release.