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Khobragade row: US should have avoided mini crisis, says Khurshid

Terming the arrest of diplomat Devyani Khobragade a 'mini crisis', external affairs minister Salman Khurshid said on Saturday that the US should have taken 'the quickest steps' to avoid it. The last few hrs of the Devyani row

india Updated: Jan 12, 2014 09:25 IST
HT Correspondent and Agencies
HT Correspondent and Agencies
Indian diplomat,Devyani Khobragade,Indo-US diplmat row

India said on Saturday there was "no standoff" with Washington but complained that its officials were not informed about Devyani Khobragade’s arrest though they were in the US a day before.

"It wasn't even mentioned," external affairs minister Salman Khurshid told the CNN-IBN television network.

He called the row a "mini crisis" and said India should have been given the chance to withdraw Khobragade before she was arrested.

He said the core of the US-Indian relationship was very strong and that he didn't expect lasting damage from what has turned into the biggest rift in years.

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

"I think we've found that at least the immediate, immediate concerns have been addressed," Khurshid said.

"But there's a lot more still to do,” he said, without clarifying what else must be done to avoid lasting damage to ties between the countries, who share some $100 billion in annual trade.

"There is no standoff between the two countries. In due course, we will take up all issues one by one and sort them out," he said.

Read:Khobragade logjam over, but show not over

He added, "I think we've found that at least the immediate, immediate concerns have been addressed. But there's a lot more still to do."

The minister told CNN IBN that for the time being there will be no rethink on ending unilateral privileges to the US diplomat in the country.

Asked whether India erred in not calling back the diplomat when the US indicated to it about pursuing the case against Khobragade, Khurshid replied in the negative saying such an action by the US authorities was not at all anticipated.

"It was not a wrong judgement at all. If there was a wrong judgement then why would have I heard secretary Kerry say that he regretted what had happened. Why would somebody in a position like his say that I regret for what happened," the minister said.

Read:Khobragade arrest revealed real issues that bedevil Indo-US ties

Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade with her father Uttam Khobragade at Maharashtra Sadan in New Delhi. PTI Photo

Khobragade, who met Khurshid and foreign secretary Sujatha Singh on Saturday, was arrested on December 12 last year on charges of underpaying her maid Sangeeta Richard and lying on the latter’s visa application.

A court had released her on bond. Her public handcuffing and cavity search in custody had left India fuming.

In what appeared to be a compromise worked out with New Delhi, the US granted her full diplomatic immunity allowing her to return to India on Friday while a federal court indicted her for visa fraud.

The decision to ask the US diplomat, who is said to have facilitated the case against Khobragade, to leave suggested New Delhi was not ready to be entirely forgiving.

Newspaper reports said, Wayne May, who left for the US on Saturday, was of “similar rank” to Khobragade. Indian officials had said he had facilitated the Richard’s to get out of India after securing them visa.

Read: US envoy headed home after being expelled

The US on late Friday said it "deeply regrets" India's expulsion of the US official but was “looking to move past this challenging time”.

Despite its soothing words, Washington has said Khobragade cannot return to the US unless she surrenders to the court.

However, her lawyer Daniel Arshack on Friday moved the New York court and urged it to drop the case. He has argued that since she has been given diplomatic status, she “automatically” has the diplomatic immunity from criminal liability in the US as long as she continues to maintain such diplomatic status.

Read:Khobragade moves US court; claims diplomatic immunity from state department

The US state department has assured Khobragade her departure in compliance with their order does not constitute a violation of the terms of her release from the court on bond on the visa fraud and false statements charges she faces.

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

US healthcare costly, Devyani warned maid not to get sick

Read: Adarsh housing, BEST buses, IFS recruitment: Khobragades' controversial past

First Published: Jan 11, 2014 18:41 IST