India Transfers Diplomat to U.N. in Bid to Defuse Row with U.S.
New Delhi – India said on Saturday that it had transferred the diplomat at the center of a row with the United States to its U.N. delegation; a move that it hopes will give her protection from prosecution for visa fraud and underpaying a maid. Whether the accreditation of DevyaniKhobragade as a member of India’s U.N. mission leads to a way out of the dispute could depend on the U.S. State Department approving her transfer.
AsokeMukherji, India’s ambassador to the United Nations said he had written to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon informing him of the 39-year-old diplomat’s transfer. The world’s two largest democracies have been at loggerheads for the past week, amid mounting outrage in India over the arrest of Khobragade, who was strip-searched and handcuffed while in custody.
Khobragade was arrested on December 12 and released on $250,000 bail after giving up her passport and pleading not guilty to charges of visa fraud and making false statements about how much she paid her housekeeper, also an Indian. At the time of her arrest Khobragade was serving as deputy consul general in New York, a role which affords less diplomatic protection from U.S. law. She faces a maximum of 15 years in prison if convicted of both counts.
In an unusual move, the United States has flown the family of the housekeeper, Sangeeta Richard, out of India. PreetBharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said on Wednesday Richard’s family had been brought to the United States after legal efforts had begun in India “to silence her, and attempts were made to compel her to return to India. (Reuters)