Devyani Khobragade row: `Damage done to India-US relations unlikely to dissipate soon`

Last Updated: Thursday, January 16, 2014 - 07:39

New York: The damage caused to India-US relations by the Devyani Khobragade episode is unlikely to "dissipate soon", according to a media report that said the case might have been handled better by American authorities.
In an editorial titled `India-America Relations on Edge`, the New York Times said the "unfortunate episode" is a reminder that while both nations are democracies, neither can avoid the hard work necessary to make the relationship work.

"The case has exposed differences between the two countries over such basic concepts as fairness and equality, while revealing a troubling level of Indian animosity toward the United States," it said.

Khobragade, charged with visa fraud and mistreating her domestic worker is back in Mumbai, and tensions between the two nations appear to have eased.

"But her case and the issues it raised are not resolved, and the damage to India-America relations is unlikely to dissipate soon," the editorial said.

"Even so, the case might have been handled better."
While the US cannot ignore laws that mandate how workers should be paid and that they be treated fairly, the editorial said federal prosecutors have "wide discretion".

Before beginning the criminal investigation, the State Department could have urged India to "reassign Khobragade to New Delhi and required her to make restitution", it said.

On its part, the US has to take measures to ensure that foreign diplomats understand American laws.

"America should also re-examine its own demands for special privileges for its diplomats overseas. More broadly, the case has exposed differences between the two countries over such basic concepts as fairness and equality, while revealing a troubling level of Indian animosity toward the United States," the editorial said.

Even as governments of both nations try to turn the page by resuming high-level meetings, "it will take more than that to achieve the global strategic partnership with India that President Obama has boasted about", it said.

Khobragade was arrested last month on charges of visa fraud and making false statements to US authorities regarding the employment terms of her domestic worker Sangeeta Richard. Last Thursday, a federal grand jury indicted Khobragade and accused her of trying to intimidate the victim.

India, its "passions fanned by election-year politics", pushed back hard at what many Indians said was American arrogance. Indian authorities removed security barriers at the American Embassy in New Delhi, cancelled the embassy`s food and alcohol import privileges and "engaged in other fits of pique", it said.

The editorial added that Khobragade has been hailed in India "as a symbol of Indian pride", with her father talking of running for public office.

"Indians have been overwhelming sympathetic to Khobragade and shockingly indifferent to Richard, one of untold numbers of powerless domestic workers lured to America by the promise of a job gone bad," it said.

PTI

First Published: Thursday, January 16, 2014 - 02:43

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