Devyani Khobragade arrest: Diplomatic row deepens as US refuses to drop charges

India and US seemed to be back to square one in probably their worst diplomatic spat over the arrest of an Indian diplomat with Washington rejecting a key demand to drop the charges against her and saying ‘we take law enforcement seriously’.

Activists hold placards during a protest outside the US Consulate in the city after the US said they would not drop charges against diplomat Devyani Khobragade. Pic/AFP

Even as it described the relationship with India as ‘incredibly important’ the US on Thursday made clear that it has no plans to drop the charges of visa fraud against Devyani Khobragade, India’s deputy consul general in New York, to deescalate the situation.

Any suggestion that the State Department would be putting pressure on New York’s US Attorney Preet Bharara to drop the charges is not true, State Department spokesperson Marie Harf told reporters when asked about such a possibility. It was not for the State Department ‘to support or not support’ Khobragade’s prosecution, she said. “That’s a decision for law enforcement and the judicial process to make.”

“We certainly take these types of allegations very seriously though,” Harf said. “So certainly, there’s no discussion like that going on. We just want the process to move forward.” India has already cleared its stand that it will accept nothing short of an apology. “We want more than a regret. What was done is unacceptable,” said External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid.

“No formalities will be acceptable to us. They (US) should tender a clear apology. We will not accept this conduct against India under any circumstances. US has to understand that the world has changed, times have changed and India has changed,” parliamentary affairs minister Kamal Nath said.

The minister said the government has always maintained that the US has to apologise in the Devyani issue. In Delhi, external affairs minister Salman Khurshid said, “We will find a solution to the issue. As we deal with each other, we have to keep entire gamut of our bilateral relationship in mind,” adding that it was important to preserve the relationship between India and the US.

 Housekeeper did not extort money: Lawyer
Refuting claims that the maid, who is in the centre of the issue, was blackmailing Khobragade, Dana Sussman said, “There was no extortion. She essentially worked very long hours, was isolated within the home, and attempted to ask for more time off, ask for more reasonable hours, but those attempts were unsuccessful.”

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