Washington: The United States on Friday "deeply regretted" that India felt it necessary to expel an American diplomat after senior diplomat Devyani Khobragade was asked to leave the country following her indictment in a visa fraud case.
"We deeply regret that the Indian government felt it was necessary to expel one of our diplomatic personnel," the State Department spokesman Jen Psaki said.
"I can confirm that a US official accredited to the (American) Mission in India will be leaving post at the request of the government of India", Psaki said.
The spokesman said "this has clearly been a challenging time in the US-India relationship" and the US expected that "this relationship will not come to a closure and India will take "significant steps" to improve the ties and return to a more "constructive place".
"We expect and hope that this will not come to closure, and the Indians will now take significant steps with us to improve our relationship and return it to a more constructive place," the spokesperson said.
Earlier in the day, India today expelled a senior American diplomat within hours of Khobragade being asked to leave the US after her indictment in a visa fraud case for which she was arrested nearly a month ago, triggering strong reaction from the government here.
The unnamed Director-rank American diplomat based here was given "a little more than 48 hours" to leave India even as Khobragade was on her way home from New York where the US government finally approved her accreditation to the UN which gave her full diplomatic immunity as against partial immunity at the time of her arrest on December 12 when she was Deputy Consul General there.
The State Department spokesperson said she is looking forward to moving past this challenging time.
"If there are issues that the Indians want to raise, if there are issues that we may want to raise, we`ll raise those privately. I think the larger point here is that there are a lot of strategic and economic issues that we work together on, and we`re eager to get back to that partnership," Psaki said.
"We have remained in very close contact both on the ground through our ambassador, through senior officials here at the State Department, with the Indians as we work to move our relationship forward."
Responding to questions, Psaki justified the decision of the US Government to grant Khobragade the necessary diplomatic immunity as it was bound by law and agreements related to the United Nations and then request the Indian Government to waive that immunity, as the US is determined to enforce the rule of law, which she alleged has been violated by the Indian diplomat.
"The fact that we have issued these charges, the fact that we have asked for a waiver of immunity, the fact that we have asked for her to return to India speaks the seriousness with which we take this case, and no one should take it or indicate that there`s an openness to a precedent," she insisted.
The US official said Khobragade was granted UN accreditation along with full diplomatic immunity on January 8. "It`s important to (note) that we would only refuse accreditation and a request for accreditation like this in rare circumstances, such as events related to national security risks," Psaki said.
"As a result, the US then requested a waiver of the immunity. It wasn`t granted immunity; it was granting accrediting - UN accreditation, which immunity comes with that. We requested a waiver of the immunity, which is standard practice; that`s government policy to request that. It doesn`t conflict with what we said before," she explained.
"When there are serious (charges) - it`s an indication of the seriousness of the charges - that have been waged against her. So that hasn`t changed.
"We requested the waiver of immunity; it was denied. And our policy as a government is to then ask for that individual to depart when there are serious charges involved," she said.
"Representatives of members of the United Nations enjoy immunity from personal arrest or detention. However, her accreditation, in this case, to the UN does not remove existing charges. In addition, now that she has left the United States, she no longer enjoys immunity.
"So that was applicable for her time here while she was serving for the UN, in the Ministry of External Affairs statement, they made clear she was being transferred over to the foreign ministry in India," she said.
Psaki maintained that the judicial process is underway and the charges remain in place.
"There`s a judicial process underway. There was an indictment issued yesterday. There`s also a standard process that is underway in cases like these as well. It doesn`t change the charges. The charges are not wiped," she said.
"We are working through the best way to manage a difficult circumstance," Psaki said and refuted reports that the US has contrived a circumstance.
"There are two processes here in place how we manage an application for accreditation with the UN. We handled that in the standard way we would handle it unless an individual poses a national security risk. There is a judicial process. That is ongoing.
"I just reiterated what (it) was conveyed to her on her departure, what has been conveyed to the government of India. That doesn`t change. Here charges are not wiped," she said.
Psaki said the Department of State investigated this matter and requested the Indians waive immunity so that she could face the charges against her shows how seriously US take human trafficking issues and all of the charges that have been placed against her.
"We are committed - and this is standard practice as we communicate with foreign diplomats, of course - to ensuring all domestic workers are paid for all hours worked.
We continue to work with foreign missions in the United States to ensure all diplomatic and consular personnel are aware of and abiding by their obligations under United States law. So that is what we communicate as a standard practice," she said.