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Tags: india | us | row | festers

India Orders US to Withdraw Diplomat as Row Festers

Friday, 10 January 2014 10:13 AM

NEW DELHI/NEW YORK India ordered the United States on Friday to withdraw one of its diplomats from New Delhi, as the Indian consul at the center of the row between the two countries flew home after she was indicted in New York for visa fraud.

Devyani Khobragade, 39, who India's deputy consul-general in New York, was arrested on Dec. 12 and indicted on Thursday before being effectively expelled from the country. Her arrest set off a furor in India amid disclosures that she was handcuffed and strip-searched.

"We called the U.S. mission to withdraw an officer of similar rank of Devyani as reciprocal action," a government official with knowledge of the decision told reporters.

Tit-for-tat withdrawals of embassy staff are common when countries become locked in diplomatic disputes. The U.S. Embassy in Delhi and India's foreign ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In New York, a federal grand jury indicted Khobragade for visa fraud and lying about her nanny's pay, but allowed to leave after she was granted a higher level of diplomatic immunity. She faces arrest if she returns to the United States.

The month-long row has soured the broader U.S.-India bilateral relationship, leading to sanctions against American diplomats in New Delhi and the postponement of visits to India by senior U.S. officials and another by a U.S. business delegation.

Incensed by the treatment of Khobragade, India removed some security barriers from near the U.S. embassy and reduced the number of envoys with immunity. On Wednesday, it ordered the U.S. Embassy to close a club for expatriate Americans there.

While both New Delhi and Washington stressed the importance of their bilateral relationship during the crisis, it has taken weeks of complex wrangling to find a workable solution both sides could live with.

It will likely take time to dispel the bad feeling that has built up between New Delhi and Washington. With national elections due in India by May, political parties have seized on the case and labeled it an attack on national sovereignty.

"We'll focus on one day at a time, today is the day we focus on getting Devyani back," said India's foreign ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin.

Akbaruddin said Khobragade left after being granted full diplomatic immunity and was being transferred to a post in New Delhi. Her father said she was expected to arrive in the capital late in the evening.

Khobragade risks arrest if she return to the United States. Her husband and children, who are U.S. citizens, are expected to follow her to India shortly, her father said.

"Upon her departure a warrant may be issued for her arrest and should she seek to enter the United States she could be arrested," a U.S. diplomatic note said.

There was no immediate comment from the Indian Embassy in Washington or its mission to the United Nations.

The foreign ministry in New Delhi said in a statement: "At the time of her departure for India, Counselor Khobragade reiterated her innocence on charges filed against her."

"She also affirmed her determination to ensure that the episode would not leave a lasting impact on her family, in particular, her children, who are still in the United States," the statement said.

© 2021 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.


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India ordered the United States on Friday to withdraw one of its diplomats from New Delhi, as the Indian consul at the center of the row between the two countries flew home after she was indicted in New York for visa fraud.
india,us,row,festers
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2014-13-10
Friday, 10 January 2014 10:13 AM
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