How MEA avoided row with New Zealand after recalling envoy Thapar

  • Jayanth Jacob, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jun 29, 2015 09:43 IST

India wriggled out of a diplomatic row with New Zealand, by taking out both the domestic help of envoy Ravi Thapar and recalling the diplomat himself well in time.

India recalled its top diplomat in New Zealand Saturday following allegations that his wife had assaulted a kitchen staff member who apparently told the police that he was “kept in slavery”.

High commissioner Ravi Thapar, an IFS officer of the 1983 batch who has been serving in New Zealand for the past two years, denied the allegations and told a newspaper in Wellington that he was returning to India to take care of his mother.

The night shelter in Wellington, where the domestic help was staying, got in touch with the office of Wellington Central MP Grant Robertson for help. “The staff member was referred to my office and we worked to ensure he had accesses to legal services he needed while in New Zealand. The gentleman concerned had access to independent legal advice,” Robertson told HT.

Robertson arranged legal services to the domestic worker, but in the end there was no formal complaint. “I’m not in a position to comment on any charges that might have been pressed”, he said.

According to sources, though the service staff member remained at the night shelter in Wellington for many days after telling the police about ‘assault and being subjected to slavery’ on March 9, the high commissioner and the high commission staff refused to answer queries from the New Zealand police. Their defence was that there was no formal complaint against them.

The service staff member came back to the envoy’s residence only after the special team external affairs ministry in Delhi met him.
What helped the government was the fact that the staff member did not press charges and that his only demand was to allow him to go home at the earliest. Ravi Thapar failed to respond to email queries from HT.

The government seems to have learnt a thing or two from handling the Devyani Khobragade incident in 2013. Though there are not many similarities between the two cases, in the absence of a formal complaint the MEA strategy was to get both the domestic worker and the officer back at the earliest.

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