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Is it over? Kerry calls Menon to express ‘regret’ over Devyani’s humiliation

by 4 months ago

The pressure seems to be working. The US has officially expressed its regret over the arrest and subsequent humiliation of India’s Deputy Consul General Devyani Khobragade. US Secretary of State John Kerry Wednesday called up Indian National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon to discuss the arrest of India’s Deputy Consul General in New York Devyani Khobragade and expressed his “regret as well as concern”, saying that “we will not allow this unfortunate public issue to hurt our close and vital relationship with India”.

A statement by US State Department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf said that Kerry called up Menon to discuss the Dec 12 arrest of Deputy Consul General Khobragade.

But the arrogance shown by America over the last few days hadn’t disappeared. Only toned down a bit “The secretary understands very deeply the importance of enforcing our laws and protecting victims, and, like all officials in positions of responsibility inside the US government, expects that laws will be followed by everyone here in our country.

“It is also particularly important to Secretary Kerry that foreign diplomats serving in the United States are accorded respect and dignity just as we expect our own diplomats should receive overseas,” the statement said.

Harf added: “As a father of two daughters about the same age as Devyani Khobragade, the secretary empathizes with the sensitivities we are hearing from India about the events that unfolded after Khobragade’s arrest.”

She said that in his conversation with National Security Advisor Menon “he (Kerry) expressed his regret, as well as his concern that we not allow this unfortunate public issue to hurt our close and vital relationship with India.”

The 39-year-old Khobragade was arrested in front of her daughter’s school, handcuffed and thrown in jail with drug addicts on charges of visa fraud despite telling the authorities about her diplomatic status and immunity. She was also strip searched and subjected to a DNA swab and cavity search.

She faces a maximum of 15 years in jail if convicted on both counts. She has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Last couple of days have seen outrage in India over the way a ranking diplomat of the country was treated in New York and the government was forced to protest this treatment. A fuming Government of India struck back over the arrest and announced a string of measures India including removing of security barriers outside the US embassy in New Delhi and ordering surrender of ID cards issued to US consular staff.

Reacting to a slew of steps taken by India to pare down the privileges of American diplomats in New Delhi in a retaliatory measure, the same State Department spokesperson Marie Harf had earlier said “an isolated incident” should not be allowed to cloud a “very important” relationship. So far there is nothing to indicate that “anything but appropriate measures were followed”, Harf had said.

This move by John Kerry is seen as a major step down from an otherwise arrogant position adopted by the US. The steps taken by the Indian government against privileges provided to the US consular staff were unprecedented and seem to have done the trick with a US administration which otherwise was oblivious to the concerns expressed by a ‘friendly’ country.

While details are awaited about the case against Devyani, this is a very visible move by the Americans to tone down the hostilities between the two nations.

Khobragade has, meanwhile, been moved to India’s permanent mission at the United Nations – a role in which she enjoys complete diplomatic immunity.

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