With the US hardening its stand on the row over Devyani Khobragade’s arrest, India is looking at other options to get its diplomat out of the country even as it presses for greater immunity.
Getting Khobragade declared persona non grata (personally unacceptable or unwelcome) is an option that is on the table, according to diplomatic sources.
Under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, a receiving state can declare any member of a diplomatic staff persona non grata. A person so declared is considered unacceptable and is usually recalled to his or her home nation.
If India chooses this path, it could bring an end to the impasse over the case of the diplomat being charged visa fraud and underpaying her domestic help.
Once declared persona non grata, Khobragade will not be able to visit the US as a private citizen, but can have diplomatic assignment there later.
India has gone down this path in the past. In 2003, India had declared Jalil Abbas Jilani, then deputy high commissioner of Pakistan in New Delhi a persona non grata along with three others.
Subsequently, Pakistan had declared five Indian diplomats personae non gratae.
India, however, hosted Jilani as foreign secretary of Pakistan in 2012.
This route is available, but India is keen on the US agreeing to greater immunity for Khobragade following her transfer to India's Permanent Mission to the UN.
The US state department, however, has asserted that Khobragade’s transfer to India’s UN mission will not protect her from the criminal charges that led to her arrest last week. What’s more, the charges will not be dropped.
But it’s not up to the state department now. If the judge dealing with the case is convinced of Khobragade’s changed immunity status, the case will be dismissed.
Moreover, even if the charges are pressed, Khobragade can stay from the court procedures citing the diplomatic immunity, according to the diplomatic sources.
For India the best way to end the impasse is to get the US to issue a G1 visa to the diplomat for UN posting.