India shifts Devyani to Permanent Mission in NY

Posted on Dec 18 2013 - 7:44pm by IBC News

NEW DELHI: India has transferred Devyani Khobragade to its Permanent Mission at the United Nations in New York with immediate effect, ensuring that she is given full immunity from possible prosecution by the American authorities in connection with an alleged visa fraud case.

But the catch is that she now needs to apply for a fresh diplomatic card through the UN Secretariat. The application will then have to be cleared by the US State Department. India hopes that America will show some positive intent by issuing the card and thus extending full immunity to Khobragade.

The Ministry of External Affairs reiterated New Delhi’s demand for Washington to treat the Khobragade case strictly as per the Vienna Conventions.

MEA spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said: ‘The Vienna Conventions are global conventions to which all countries are committed. For diplomats like us, they are the shield and armour which protect us. Let there be no doubt that India is fully committed to implementing the Vienna Conventions.”

“We understand our obligations and our rights under the Vienna Conventions, and we will implement them fully and also ask for their implementation fully,” he added.

The MEA also added that said the safety and security of American diplomats would not be compromised.

The US State Department said it had told the Indian government it expects New Delhi to protect its embassy and stressed it did not want the incident with the Indian diplomat to hurt ties.

Earlier, India announced retaliatory measures against the United States on Wednesday, including revising work conditions of Indians employed in U.S. consulates and a freeze on duty-free alcohol, in an escalating row over the arrest of a diplomat in New York.

The move came a day after police removed security barricades from the US embassy in New Delhi in reprisal against the arrest. Heavy machinery dragged away concrete barriers that restricted traffic movement around the embassy.

The dispute was triggered by the December 12 arrest of Devyani Khobragade, a deputy consul general at the Indian Consulate in New York, on charges of visa fraud and making false statements about how much she paid her housekeeper, an Indian national.

India has responded furiously to what it considers the degrading treatment of a senior diplomat by the United States, a country it considers a close friend.

What is the Devyani Khobragade saga

Khobragade, deputy consul general for political, economic, commercial and women’s affairs at the Indian Consulate in New York, was charged Thursday with one count of visa fraud and one count of making false statements, which carry maximum sentences of ten years and five years in prison, respectively.

US prosecutors said Khobragade claimed in visa applications to be paying an Indian national who worked as a housekeeper in her Upper East Side residence about $4,500 a month, when in fact, she was paying her about Rs 30,000 or $480 a month. That works out to a wage of about $3.31 an hour, or less than half the $9.75 legal minimum, according to prosecutors.

Khobragade, who was released on $250,000 bail after pleading not guilty to the charges and surrendering her passport, faces a maximum of 15 years in jail if convicted on both counts.

But what has flared up the issue was the treatment that was meted out to Khobragade when she was arrested.

It has been discovered now that Khobragade was strip-searched in custody and made to stand with common criminals, drug addicts and sex workers by the New York Police.

Khobragade was on her way to drop her children to school when she was stopped by the police and handcuffed in full public view.

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