New Delhi | Jan 10, 2014
Indo-US diplomatic ties suffered another blow today with India expelling a senior US diplomat in retaliation for the expulsion of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade hours earlier after she had been indicted by a jury in New York in a visa fraud case.
An unnamed Director-rank American diplomat from the US Embassy was given "a little more than 48 hours" to leave India even as Khobragade was on a flight home nearly a month after she was arrested and strip searched for allegedly underpaying her maid, Sangeeta Richard.
Arrest of Khobragade had led to tense diplomatic stand- off between the two countries which saw the US finally approving her accreditation to the UN on Wednesday which gave her full immunity against partial immunity she had in her position as Deputy Consul General at the time of her arrest.
Khobragade was told by the US to leave that country immediately after India refused to waive her diplomatic immunity to face trial. She boarded a flight to India last night.
In fast retaliation, New Delhi ordered the expulsion of an American diplomat of similar rank who was involved in arranging for the "evacuation" of three members of the maid's family from India two days before Khobragade was arrested.
Refraining from using the term "expulsion", official sources said here that the US Embassy has been asked to "withdraw" one of its diplomats.
Government has "reasons to believe that the diplomat is closely involved in the processes relating to the Khobragade case and subsequent unilateral action by the US", the sources said without divulging the name of the American diplomat.
The diplomat was understood to be closely involved in the "evacuation" of the family of Sangeeta, whose husband and two children were flown to the US with tickets issued by the official travel agency of the US Embassy. The diplomat is believed to have also signed the tax exemption for the air tickets using his diplomatic card.
India's tit-for-tat action is only the second instance of a US diplomat being expelled, the first instance being expulsion of George Griffin, then political Counsellor, 33 years ago. That was in retaliation against similar action being taken by the US against Prabhakar Menon, an Indian diplomat.
It is understood that it was always the effort of the government to bring back Khobragade, who had surrendered her passport after the arrest and was out on a bail of USD 250,000, through G-1 visa route which would have given her full immunity.
Meanwhile, the charges against Khobragae will remain pending until such time as she can be brought to Court to face the charges, either through a waiver of immunity or her return to the US in a non-immune status which were make her liable to arrest.