India promotes diplomat in US as row turns bitter

Tags: News
In an escalating diplomatic row between India and the US, New Delhi on Thursday implied that the US had virtually colluded with the missing Indian help, Sangeeta Richard, by assisting her and her family’s illegal immigration.

On the day, the government transferred the diplomat to India’s permanent mission at the UN in New York to provide her with full diplomatic immunity.

External affairs minister Salman Khurshid bluntly accused the US of ‘fraud’ for granting visas to her family. Not mincing words, he alleged that 39-year-old Devyani Khobragade was ‘trapped’ in a ‘conspiracy’.

The reference was to offers that the diplomat reportedly got on phone to settle the matter with Richard by paying her a hefty compensation running into thousands of dollars and also steps that would facilitate her permanent stay in the US.

This was after the diplomat had reported to the police that her maid had absconded in June this year.

What prompted India’s charges of immigration fraud and attempted ‘extortion’ was the curious coincidence that Richard’s husband and two children flew to New York on December 10 just two days before the US authorities arrested the diplomat.

Having withdrawn several privileges to the US consular staff in India, the government has made it clear that it wanted all charges against the diplomat dropped. It also demanded an unconditional apology from the US for the maltreatment meted out to Khobragade. On Wednesday, all that the US state department spokesperson said was that it is “looking into the intake procedures surrounding this arrest to ensure appropriate procedures were followed...”

Launching a scathing attack on the actions of the US government even in the months preceding the diplomat’s humiliation, India said even though it was pointed out to the US authorities that Richard’s was basically a case of immigration fraud, they refused to act or even cooperate in the matter.

Now given that Richard’s family too has been granted visas to travel to the US, India feels that “a charade is going on behind our backs to fully facilitate and enable the illegal immigration of the entire family.” The government also wondered why attempts by the Indian officials in New York to file a complaint of extortion against Richard did not find merit with the New York police department( NYPD).

On Wednesday, PM Manmohan Singh described Khobragade’s treatment as ‘deplorable’. Both Houses of Parliament also condemned the manner in which the US authorities treated the diplomat. There were impromptu discussions on the matter in both Houses with angry members condemning the incident.

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