Devyani Khobragade, who was deputy consul-general in New York, was
arrested on December 12 and indicted on Thursday by a grand jury for
visa fraud and making false statements about how much she paid her
Her arrest set off protests in India amid disclosures that she was
handcuffed and strip-searched. The dispute 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
A United Nations diplomat familiar with the case said Khobragade had
flown out of the United States. In India, the foreign ministry said
she was being transferred to a post in New Delhi.
Khobragade's lawyer Daniel Arshack said she would leave with her
head "held high."
"She knows she has done no wrong and she looks forward to assuring
that the truth is known," he said in a statement.
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
Documents and statements from U.S. officials reveal a dizzying 24
hours in which the State Department granted Khobragade diplomatic
immunity, unsuccessfully asked India to waive that immunity and
ordered her to leave the country immediately.
According to documents provided by Arshack, the U.S. mission sent a
letter to Khobragade on Wednesday granting her diplomatic status as
of 5.47 p.m. (2147 GMT) that day.
On Thursday, the Indian mission to the United Nations rejected the
State Department's request that her immunity be waived. Then in a
diplomatic note, the U.S. mission requested Khobragade's immediate
departure from the United States and said it would take steps to
prevent her from obtaining a visa in the future. It also said
Khobragade, 39, who is married to an American, risked arrest if she
tried to return.
"Upon her departure a warrant may be issued for her arrest and
should she seek to enter the United States she could be arrested,"
the note said.
There was no immediate comment from the Indian Embassy in Washington
or its mission to the United Nations.
The foreign ministry statement in New Delhi said: "At the time of
her departure for India, Counsellor 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."
India was incensed by the treatment of Khobragade and has curtailed
privileges offered to U.S. diplomats in New Delhi. On Wednesday it
ordered the U.S. Embassy to close a club for expatriate Americans
Also on Wednesday, U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz postponed a
visit to India scheduled for next week. This move came days after
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Nisha Desai Biswal
delayed her first visit to the country to avoid the trip becoming
embroiled in the dispute.
The arresting authority, the U.S. Marshals Service, characterized
the strip search as a routine procedure imposed on any new arrestee.
[to top of second column]
As well as this treatment of Khobragade, India was angered that the
United States took it upon itself to fly the nanny's family out of
India. The prosecuting attorney, Preet Bharara of Manhattan, an
ethnic Indian, said attempts were made in India to "silence" the
nanny, Sangeeta Richard, and compel her to return home.
Safe Horizon, a non-government organisation that campaigns for
victims of abuse, said that although Richard's legal presence in the
United States was tied to her employment, she had been granted
temporary permission to remain while she cooperates with law
enforcement as a victim of human trafficking.
It said Richard was likely to apply for a special "T-1" visa
reserved for trafficking victims. Such a visa would be valid for up
to four years and allow her to work in the United States. It can
also lead to lawful permanent residence, according to the website of
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Khobragade's departure would remove the focus of current friction
between New Delhi and Washington, but it is unclear how long it will
take the anger to subside in the run-up to national elections in
India in May. Also, the continued presence of Richard in the United
States could prove an irritant.
The case has exposed underlying problems in a bilateral relationship
that has failed to live up to its billing by President Barack Obama
in 2010 as "a defining partnership for the 21st Century."
Critics accuse Obama of failing to pay sufficient attention to ties
with a country viewed as a key strategic counterbalance to China and
as an engine to boost the U.S. economy, while American hopes of
building a more robust business relationship with India have run
into bureaucratic hurdles.
Indian sourcing rules for retail, information technology, medicine
and clean energy products are contentious and U.S. firms complain
about "unfair" imports from India of everything from shrimp to steel
pipes. In June, more than 170 U.S. lawmakers signed a letter to
Obama about Indian policies they said threatened U.S. jobs.
Speaking at a seminar on Thursday, Ron Somers, president of the
U.S.-India Business Council blamed "bumbling on both sides" for the
"We have to do some thinking on this side as to what has there been
in the way of frustration that allowed this incident to provoke and
spill over as it has," he said.
"We really need now to be building trust and taking an introspective
look at whether we really mean what we say when we talk about
strategic partnership and how do we get there."
(Reporting by Nate Raymond, Joseph Ax and Chris Francescani in New
York, David Brunnstrom in Washington, Louis Charbonneau at the
United Nations and Frank Jack Daniel in New Delhi; editing by Clive McKeef, Eric Walsh and Raju Gopalakrishnan)
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