Govt’s responsibility to bring back Devyani, says Khurshid

The ill-treatment meted out to Devyani Khobragade, India’s Deputy Consul General in New York, saw Parliamentarians cutting across party lines asking the Indian Government to take strong retaliatory action against the US.

In the Lok Sabha, Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav raised the issue and demanded that the House pass a resolution condemning the US.

Demanding an apology from the US, Mulayam cited earlier cases of humiliating treatment meted to Union Ministers Sharad Pawar and Praful Patel besides former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, former Defence Minister George Fernandes and SP leader Azam Khan.

Describing the arrest and the way it was done as a matter of “grave concern”, Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley said there was need to introspect on India’s foreign policy.

Earlier, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh termed the treatment meted out to the Indian diplomat as “deplorable” while External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid told the Lok Sabha that it was the Government’s responsibility to bring back Devyani.

Making suo motu statements in both the Houses, Khurshid said the Government was determined and “will intervene effectively and specifically to ensure that the dignity of the diplomat is preserved”.

India claimed that the entire case was essentially one of visa fraud being perpetuated by the diplomat’s former domestic help Sangeeta Richards and her husband with the full knowledge of the American authorities.

It is reliably learnt that on July 8, Richards had met Khobragade at an immigration Council Office and had specifically demanded payment of $10,000, grant of an ordinary Indian passport and immigration relief to enable her to stay on in the US.

Meanwhile, it is understood that Richards’ husband and two children flew out on Air India’s non-stop flight to New York on December 10, two days before the Indian diplomat was arrested. The family travelled on Indian passports issued in July.

It is also reliably learnt that India heard nothing from the US till the Indian diplomat was picked up by the Americans.

India, meanwhile, maintained that the steps that had been initiated against the US Embassy and Consulates in India were based on reciprocity and were not retaliatory.

It is also reliably learnt that the decision to remove the barricades outside the US Embassy here came after a move in January when diplomatic parking slots outside the Indian Embassy in Washington DC were opened to the general public despite it being perceived as a security threat to the Mission.

India claimed that the decision to take away the airport passes of American diplomats was not a small thing as it was a very critical facility that was offered to diplomats to help them in the smooth functioning of their duties.

(This article was published on December 18, 2013)
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