ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Avoidable Mess

None of the principal actors have acted sensibly in the Khobragade affair.

Nothing regarding the arrest of Devyani Khobragade, then deputy consul general at India’s New York consulate, and the reaction to it inspires confidence about public affairs in the United States and in India. If the manner in which she was arrested and subjected to various indignities – handcuffing, strip searches, body cavity searches – could have been avoided considering her position and the nature of her alleged “crime”, the reactions to this incident have also been strident, betraying a sense of misplaced nationalism on the part of the Indian political establishment.

Both Khobragade and her domestic help, Sangeeta Richard, who had filed a case against her employer alleging visa fraud and non-payment of the prescribed minimum wages in the US, are Indian citizens. The argument that this practice – visa fraud and false declaration related to wages – is rampant in diplomatic circles and that Khobragade had diplomatic immunity does not hold water. Khobragade’s non-payment of the minimum wage was an issue to be investigated in the event of a complaint filed by her employee in the US and consular officials could indeed be arrested for acts committed outside official functions, according to the Vienna Convention. Her subsequent transfer to India’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations seems a belated acknowledgement of the above fact.

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