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HindustanTimes Mon,21 Apr 2014

Devyani row: US embassy was a let-down, says govt

Jayanth Jacob, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, December 30, 2013
First Published: 00:34 IST(30/12/2013) | Last Updated: 00:37 IST(30/12/2013)

The US embassy in New Delhi and the state department acted in bad faith in the case of the arrest and alleged ill-treatment of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade, according to the central government.

The diplomat has been charged with visa fraud and underpaying her domestic help.

A host of factors are being cited by the Indian side to prove its contention that the US embassy also misled the ministry of external affairs by not sharing all the details in time with other arms of the US government handling the diplomat’s case.

The US embassy in New Delhi didn’t respond to an HT query seeking its view on the issue.

To begin with, the US mission in India is aware that visas for the India-based domestic assistance (IBDA) for successive Indian diplomats posted in the US are given on the basis of deemed government employment. The visas are given after the Indian government gives a diplomatic note, and the US embassy is aware that the Indian government pays airfares as well as medical coverage on a par with those of the diplomat.

The embassy, the Indian side believes, should have conveyed such details to the US justice department.

The Indian side also says contrary to the claims of the state department, in the past six months there was only one communication from it in response to many from here.

Though it prepared the case long ago, the state department had no intention of informing the Indian side about the arrest of the diplomat despite the fact that foreign secretary Sujatha Singh visited the US just days before her arrest.

Khobragade had diplomatic immunity from arrest and detention because she was accredited to the UN as an advisor.

The US in its submission to the International Court of Justice in 1979 — in response to Iran taking the US diplomatic and consular staff hostage — had argued that under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations "the US consular staff should be treated with respect and be free from arrest and detention". And it was upheld by the court.

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