US Insults Nation of India…By Backing The Wrong Indian, Apparently – The Devyani Khobragade Affair

Deputy Consular General Devyani Khobragade

To quickly summarize the situation here, the following happened:

1) An Indian Consular allegedly lies on a travel visa application at the US Embassy in New Delhi.

2) All is well until her maid feels she’s not being paid as she should. Maid goes to NYPD and files complaint.

2) Consular is arrested and processed as all arrested persons are, which includes strip search and placement in a holding cell.

3) She is held for 48 hours before she can go before a judge, and make bail.

4) Said Consular asserts that she has Diplomatic Immunity, therefore she shouldn’t have been arrested.

5) Politicians in India describe situation as

a) “The way our consular was insulted, stripped, handcuffed on the road, put behind bars with goons and thugs, all this has caused anguish for the people of our country.” – Hindu nationalist Jai Bhagwan Goyal

b) India’s Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath said the arrest was a slap in the face to all of India.

c) And he follows up with, “The United States needs to come out of the mindset that there are still banana republics in this world.” – Mr Nath

6) In reprisal, The Indian Government vowed to stop all import clearances for the US embassy, while Indian security forces removed barricades from outside the US embassy in New Delhi.

This is interesting because first of all, as a consular official, Ms. Khobragade has only limited immunity, which covers her only in the performance of her job at the consulate. She does not have the famous “Diplomatic Immunity”, which is reserved for office-holders at a higher level under the Geneva Convention. Had she Diplomatic Immunity, there is no question, she could not, and would not have been arrested. Whether you agree with that or not, that is the agreed-upon law, and it must therefore be upheld. So, the limits of her immunity having been established, unless lying to the US Government is in the Indian Consulate’s job description, she has no immunity. But what’s far more interesting is that Ms Khobragade is in trouble because she signed a job contract to pay her made $10 an hour, but has only been paying her $3.31 an hour, which is in violation of US minimum wage. And because of this, the US has arrested her to protect the interests of the maid, who is also an Indian national. And the Indian Government is viewing this as an insult to India, when I can’t help but wonder from this information if it’s really just threatening to Indian politicans and consulars, because the US had the audacity to arrest a mid-level consular on the word of a maid. But then this is speculation on my part. Perhaps it was this quote by Ms. Khobragade about her ordeal that got me thinking in this direction:

“I must admit that I broke down many times as the indignities of repeated handcuffing, stripping and cavity searches, swabbing, in a hold-up with common criminals and drug addicts were all being imposed upon me despite my incessant assertions of immunity.”

Well, we (and she, presumably) know that she doesn’t actually have immunity in this case, and the impression that she simply thinks she’s above this “common” legal process comes across quite strongly. The Times of India has an interesting timeline of this whole case online, which goes back 6 months, and it fills in a lot of interesting details. One detail Mr. Nath, with his “Banana Republic” comment will surely appreciate is that the Indian Government rescinded the maid’s passport after all this happened, so she is now stuck in the US illegally, yet can’t legally leave the US either. In case you’re wondering, Mr. Nash is quite right; that’s definitely not the sort of thing a Banana Republic would do.

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