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HindustanTimes Thu,18 Sep 2014

Top US leadership feels diplomat row 'most stupid thing to do' on their part

PTI  Washington, January 11, 2014
First Published: 12:41 IST(11/1/2014) | Last Updated: 13:07 IST(11/1/2014)

Recognising the damage that the diplomat row has done to the India-US relationship, there is a realisation in the top American leadership that "it was the most stupid thing to do" on their part and that they would now have to "work overtime" to bring the ties back on track.

As Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade landed in New Delhi Friday night, there was a sense of relief in the US government, with officials expressing their determination to move forward the relationship, which President Barack Obama has described as the defining partnership of the 21st century.

"The US and India enjoy a broad and deep friendship, and this isolated episode is not indicative of the close and mutually respectful ties that we share," White House press secretary Jay Carney said.

Obama, sources said, was regularly updated on the development and National Security Advisor Susan Rice too was monitoring the situation; so was Secretary of State John Kerry, it is believed.

"This has clearly been a challenging time in the US-India relationship. We expect and hope that this will now come to closure and the Indians will now take significant steps with us to improve our relationship and return it to a more constructive place," state department spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters.

Read: Devyani returns, but India gives US envoy 'little more than 48 hrs' to leave

Read: Khobragade logjam over, but show not over

Read: Charges against me are 'false and baseless', says Devyani

Arrested on December 12, Khobragade, 39, was strip-searched and held with criminals, triggering a row between the two countries with India retaliating by downgrading privileges of certain category of US diplomats among other steps.

Now that the Khobragade has returned to India, sources told PTI that there was "furious" reaction in the top American leadership when this was first brought to their notice on December 12, the day Khobragade was arrested in New York on charges of visa fraud and misrepresentation of facts.

"It was one of the most stupid thing to do," a top American leader is learnt to have said, referring to the damage the diplomat case has done to the India-US ties.

In fact a source pointed that the level of "furious reaction" in the top American leadership was similar to that of India.

"If the Indians were furious, so were we."

It is one of the reasons why, Kerry in the middle of his overseas trip, made it a point to reach out to external affairs minister Salman Khurshid and since he could not be available at that time, he spoke with national security advisor Shivshankar Menon.

Read: Happy at Devyani’s return, her father thanks govt, media and public

Read: Lawyer demands apology for Bharara's wrong statement on whereabouts of Khobragade

Read: From a missing maid to an indicted diplomat: the Khobragade timeline

During the conversation, Kerry is believed to have apologised for the incident, sources said.

But the public statement issued by the State Department noted that Kerry expressed his regret to Menon.


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