The Indian diplomat whose arrest and strip search caused a major rift in US-India ties, former Indian deputy consul-general in New York Devyani Khobragade, was flying home yesterday after a deal in which she was indicted for visa fraud and underpaying her nanny, but allowed to leave because of diplomatic immunity.
India also asked the US yesterday to withdraw a diplomat from its embassy in New Delhi, in the latest retaliatory action over Khobragade’s arrest.
An Indian government official said the US diplomat was involved in the case relating to Khobragade.
“We called the US mission to withdraw an officer of similar rank of Devyani as reciprocal action,” the official said
Khobragade was arrested in New York on Dec. 12 and indicted on Thursday before being effectively expelled from the US. Her arrest set off protests in India amid disclosures that she was handcuffed and strip-searched.
The dispute has soured the broader US-India bilateral relationship, leading to sanctions against US diplomats in New Delhi and the postponement of visits to India by senior US officials, and another by a US business delegation.
It was not immediately clear whether the return of Khobragade would be enough to dispel the bad feeling that has built up between New Delhi and Washington. With national elections due in India by May, political parties have seized on the case and labeled it an attack on national sovereignty.
“We’ll focus on one day at a time, today is the day we focus on getting Devyani back,” Indian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said.
While both New Delhi and Washington stressed the importance of their bilateral relationship during the crisis, it has taken weeks of complex wrangling to find a workable solution both sides could live with.
Akbaruddin said Khobragade left after being granted full diplomatic immunity and was being transferred to a post in New Delhi. Her father, Uttam Khobragade, said she was expected to arrive in the capital late in the evening.
Documents and statements from US officials reveal a dizzying 24 hours in which the US Department of State granted Khobragade diplomatic immunity, unsuccessfully asked India to waive that immunity and ordered her to leave the country immediately.