Last week Devyani Khobragade, an Indian diplomat was arrested on allegations of visa fraud. India wants U.S. to apologize for the kind of treatment given to the diplomat as well as drop the case against her. Since then there has been considerable outrage in India over the issue and all political parties have come out against this type of behavior from a friendly nation with whom it has strategic alliance. The government has also mentioned that such action where she was handcuffed in public, strip searched, cavity searched and swabbed for DNA was totally against Vienna Convention.
The accusation against Ms. Devyani Khobragade, who is the Deputy Consular General, is that she lied on Sangeeta Richard’s visa application about how much was being paid to her, whom Devyani had hired as maid and, additionally, was not paying the minimum wages and, in addition, forced Sangeeta to work more than forty hours every week. The allegation is that Devyani was paying her housekeeper only about $3, which was far less than the minimum wage in the US.
As retaliation to this arrest, Indian government has taken several steps starting from removal of security barriers that are present outside the US embassy located in Delhi to asking for salary details of Indian staff hired to work for US diplomats in their houses. Indian government has also withdrawn the import licenses, which permitted US embassy’s commissary to import things like food & alcohol.
The political fraternity has come out strongly against this action of the US agencies and leaders, ranging from foreign minister Salman Khurshid to parliamentary affairs minister Kamal Nath, have spoken sturdily about it. MEA officials are not satisfied with just the regret expressed by U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry over a phone call to national security advisor and seek clear apology from US government. Even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has mentioned that the kind of treatment imparted to Devyani Khobragade was deplorable.
What happens now?
Get Immunity: If U.S. State Department approves the G1 Visa for Devyani, then she will become member of India’s permanent mission of UN, this will provide Khobragade full diplomatic immunity and the charges that have been levied will become irrelevant.
Court Proceedings: However, in case the indictment completes before her visa is granted then the case will go to court and thereafter stretch for few months. If convicted for visa fraud, it could mean ten years sentence and five years for giving false declaration.
As a final note, we can say that this Devyani Khobragade incidence has dented the US-India relations a bit. However, political experts believe that the two governments will be able to sort things out quickly by solving this issue rather than let it stretch and escalate into a major problem.