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India Vows to Protect Diplomat After US Arrest

  • Anjana Pasricha

FILE - Devyani Khobragade, India's deputy consul general, attends a fundraiser event in Long Island, New York, Dec. 8, 2013.

FILE - Devyani Khobragade, India's deputy consul general, attends a fundraiser event in Long Island, New York, Dec. 8, 2013.

India says it wants the case against its female diplomat, arrested last week in New York on charges of visa fraud, to be dropped. It says it does not want the dispute over the diplomat to harm its friendship with Washington, but has vowed to do everything to protect her.

Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid said Thursday that the case against a senior Indian diplomat at the Indian consulate in New York who was arrested last week did not deserve to be pursued and must be dropped.

39-year-old Devyani Khobragade faces prosecution in the U.S. on charges of submitting false documents to obtain a work visa for her household help, and allegedly underpaying her. She has denied the charges and was released on bail following her arrest last week.

India has been infuriated by the treatment meted out to her following her arrest. The diplomat said she was handcuffed, strip searched and cavity searched.

A call by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to a top Indian official to express regret did not fully soothe India.

Kamal Nath is India’s parliamentary affairs minister.

Nath said to just express regret was not enough. He said there should be an apology and an admission U.S. authorities have made a mistake.

The diplomat, Devyani Khobragade, faces prosecution on charges of submitting false documents to obtain a work visa for her household help, and allegedly underpaying her. She has denied the charges and was released on bail following her arrest last week.

New York City U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, has said the diplomat was given courtesies beyond other defendants and she was not handcuffed in public. He said she tried to evade U.S. law and created false documents.

India's foreign ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin responded strongly on Thursday saying Bharara's statement was a post facto rationalization for an action that should never have taken place.

"The action taken against her was not in keeping with the Vienna Convention. There were no courtesies in the treatment that was meted out to the diplomat under the normal definition of the word in the English language," he said.

The Indian government has transferred the diplomat to its mission at the United Nations, where she will get full diplomatic immunity. But her new posting has to be cleared by the U.S. State Department.

Khurshid told parliament Wednesday that India would protect and restore the dignity of the diplomat at any cost.

“I think the most important immediate concern is to ensure that no further indignity is inflicted upon the young officer. And we are taking steps to ensure, legally, that we implement that immediately. In terms of giving a strong, unambiguous, direct message to the United States of America, whatever I believe we were supposed to do we did immediately,” he said.

In the days since the furor erupted, India has trimmed privileges of U.S. officials at consulates, rescinded airport passes and removed concrete security barriers in front of the U.S. embassy in New Delhi.

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