The arrest and humiliation of India’s Deputy Consul General in New York, Devyani Khobragade, has triggered a massive national uproar and outrage. The issue rocked the Indian parliament December 18, with politicians cutting across party lines voicing anger and demanding an unconditional apology from the US.
The US, however, remained unapologetic about the humiliating treatment meted out to the Indian diplomat that included handcuffing in the public and police subjecting her to strip search, cavity search and other indignities. Washington, however, hoped that “an isolated episode” should not “impact the bilateral relationship.”
In an atypical muscular assertion, India has taken a slew of retaliatory steps, including curtailing the privileges enjoyed by American diplomats and withdrawal of traffic barricades near the US embassy. In a set of unprecedented steps to underscore that it can’t be business as usual, New Delhi stopped imports of food and other items by the US embassy and asked for details of salaries paid to Indian staff and domestic helps employed with the mission.
Reflecting mounting outrage over the incident which seemed to bely the narrative of robust India-US relations, Arun Jaitley, leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha (upper house) underlined that if we continue to conduct our foreign policy in a manner that we’re taken for granted, then these incidents will be repeated. “We should conduct our business as equals,” Mr Jaitley said. Mayawati, BSP leader and former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, said that the UPA government should take up the incident very seriously.
Sitaram Yechury, leader of the CPM, a party known for its anti-American postures, underlined that the US is the worst policeman. “There have been many Cabinet members in NDA and UPA governments who have been subjected to such acts,” Yechury said.
India’s National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon has described the treatment meted out to the Indian diplomat as “despicable and barbaric.”
On December 12, Khobragade was arrested on a street in New York as she was dropping her daughter to school in the morning and handcuffed in public on visa fraud charges and alleged exploitation of her domestic help. She was charged with one count of visa fraud and one count of making false statements, which carry maximum sentences of 10 years and five years in prison, respectively. To add insult to injury, she was subjected to what the US authorities called standard operating procedures that included being strip-searched, cavity-searched and swabbed for DNA after her arrest in New York.
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