Diplomat row: India demands apology, asks US to drop visa fraud case against Khobragade

Rejecting a statement of “regret” from US secretary of state John Kerry, an angry India on Thursday demanded an apology for the strip-searching of diplomat Devyani Khobragade and withdrawal of charges against her. What could happen next | Time to indulge US is over
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Updated on Dec 20, 2013 09:01 AM IST
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Hindustan Times | ByHT Correspondent and Agencies, New Delhi/washington

US under deputy secretary of state for political affairs Wendy Sherman met foreign secretary Sujatha Singh to follow up on secretary of state John Kerry's telephonic talk with national security advisor Shivshankar Menon.

Kerry had expressed regret over the public handcuffing and strip-search of Indian deputy consular general Devyani Khobragade in custody after her arrest last week for alleged visa fraud.

During the 20-25 minute long meet, Sherman also distanced the state department from the statement issued by US attorney Preet Bharara on the diplomat's case.

Earlier in the day, India asked the US to drop the visa fraud case against Devyani Khobragade, suggesting US secretary of State John Kerry’s expression of regret over her treatment in custody was not enough.

"We have asked for an explanation for what has happened... and why, and we have asked for the cases to be dropped and withdrawn immediately," said foreign minister Salman Khurshid.

New Delhi wasn't convinced there was a case against Khobragade who has been treated like a common criminal, he said.

Khurshid said he “would still prefer call the incident a conspiracy rather than an act of gigantic stupidity” on the part of some US officials, while parliamentary affairs minister Kamal Nath said nothing short of an apology can douse the flames.

READ: Nanny was blackmailing Devyani for green card, says sister

Further upping the ante, ministry of external affairs (MEA), meanwhile, snubbed the India-born prosecutor of the case, Preet Bharara, who had asked why there was so much outrage over the diplomat’s alleged mistreatment in custody and no outrage over the treatment of Sangeeta Richards, the maid Khobragade had hired.

“The only victim in this case is Devyani Khobragade, a serving Indian diplomat on mission in the US,” an MEA spokesman said.

“Bharara's statement is one more attempt at a post facto rationalisation for an action that should never have taken place in the first instance,” the spokesman said.

The MEA said the US government should have focused on Richards and her family and not on Khobragade and her family. Khurshid had told Parliament on Wednesday that US authorities took no steps to locate Richards when she went missing from Khobragade’s house in New York in June this year.

READ: Khurshid wants ‘friend’ US to drop case against Khobragade

Referring to the evacuation of Richards’ family members from India to the United States two days before the diplomat’s arrest, which India read as part of a conspiracy to frame the diplomat, the MEA said no foreign government had a right to evacuate an Indian citizen while cases were pending against them.

Responding to Bharara’s claims that Khobragade was “accorded courtesies” and not handcuffed when arrested, the MEA shot back: “There were no courtesies in the treatment that was meted out to the diplomat, under the normal definition of that word in the English language.”

READ: US media ignored issue till Kerry call

The unprecedented public arrest and humiliation took place when joint secretary (Americas) Vikram Doraiswamy was in discussion with the state department officials in Washington on furthering the India-US ties. And the US action “defied the all the norms for dealing with a friendly country with whom US has a strategic partnership” said an official.

(With agency inputs)

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READ: US attorney Preet Bharara says Devyani treated very wl

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