Immunity and indictment coming almost hand in hand for Devyani Khobragade marks a half victory for India after a nearly month-long battle of nerves with the US over the diplomat charged with visa fraud and underpaying her housekeeper.
The stand-off that began with the arrest and strip-search of Khobragade on December 12 comes to end, at least for the time being, with her return, but the US has not agreed to New Delhi's demand for dropping the charges against her.
Till the very end, the US stuck to the line that law would take its course. However, Washington conceded some ground and agreed to grant Khobragade a G-1 visa, meant for diplomats working with international organisations.
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This completed the process of the 1999-batch IFS officer being accredited as a counsellor at India's permanent mission at the United Nations. It also enabled Khobragade, 39, to get her passport back from court custody and a safe passage out the country after the "US requested her departure".
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The external affairs ministry said in a statement, "The US Government requested the Government of India to waive the immunity of Counsellor Khobragade. 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."
Diplomatic immunity can be waived only by the sending country.
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The granting of G-1 visa was a matter of great relief to New Delhi. Otherwise, Khobragade would have been handcuffed again at the time of the trial on January 13.
With the US making it clear that the charges being dropped were not an option, the focus was on getting her a G-1 visa, which would entitle her to greater immunity
Though the immunity would have saved her from arrest and court appearances, India preferred to bring Khobragade back.
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The US secretary of state John Kerry and US ambassador to India Nancy Powell expressed regret over the "circumstances that led to her arrest". The earlier Indian demand of an apology, however, was not met.
Upon her departure from US, a warrant may be issued for her arrest. Khobragade can be arrested in the US if she returns to the country with non-immune status.