Diplomatic row may cast shadow on India-US ties

If the US does not issue a G-1 visa to Devyani Khobragade within the next few days, the diplomatic spat over the humiliating arrest of the Indian Foreign Service officer in New York may cast shadow over the agenda of bilateral engagement Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and US President Barack Obama had agreed upon last September.

Uncertainty looms large over the proposed back-to-back visits of US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Nisha Desai Biswal and American Energy Secretary, Ernest Moniz.

Biswal is expected to reach New Delhi early next week for her maiden visit after taking over as the key official of the US State Department to deal with India. Moniz is expected to arrive in New Delhi later this month to jointly chair the US-India energy dialogue with the vice-chairman of the Planning Commission of India, Montek Singh Ahluwalia.

Just a few days after the arrest of Khobragade, Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi and the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi refused to meet a US congressional delegation, ostensibly to convey New Delhi’s displeasure to Washington.

Sources in New Delhi told Deccan Herald on Monday that if the diplomatic spat triggered by Khobragade’s arrest on December 12 last did not end soon, it might cast shadow on the visits of Biswal and Moniz too.Soon after her arrest on December 12 last, New Delhi shifted Khobragade from the Consulate General of India in New York to the Permanent Mission of India (PMI) to the United Nations to ensure that she enjoyed greater degree of immunity.  Though the UN has already accredited her as the political counsellor at the PMI, the Office of Foreign Missions of the US State Department has not yet issued her a fresh diplomatic identity card.

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