India insists US drop charges against diplomat

India insists US drop charges against diplomat

India today insisted that the US should drop the charges of visa fraud against its diplomat Devyani Khobragade, who has returned here after being expelled by the American authorities.

Khobragade, who was arrested in New York on December 12 and returned home yesterday, was not guilty of any wrongdoing, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said.

Meanwhile, Khobragade met Khurshid and Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh here and told them about her ordeal. She also thanked them for their support.

American diplomat Wayne May, Chief of the embassy’s diplomatic security contingent, who was expelled by India in a tit-for-tat action, was readying to leave. He had been given about 48 hours yesterday by Indian government to do so.

Defending India's stand on the issue, Khurshid told Karan Thapar for CNN-IBN's Devil's Advocate that India will continue pressing for dropping of visa fraud charges against Khobragade and made it clear that there was no rethink on restoring extra privileges to American diplomats here.

Asserting that Khobragade was not guilty of wrongdoings as charged by the US authorities, Khurshid said efforts would be on to "clean up things completely" to the satisfaction of both the sides.

Describing Khobragade episode as a "mini crisis", the minister also defended India's decision to ask the US Embassy here to stop commercial activities from within its premises and withdrawal of the extra privileges, saying "No, there wasn't retaliation. I think it was an appropriate response not a retaliation."

Asserting that India should not be seen extending more privileges to one country and less to others, he said, "We did what really is the formal procedures that apply to everybody.

"If they were friends, taking extra concessions, those extra concessions may have been discretionary given to them from time to time.

"But when you take stock of what are our entitlements and what are your obligations then it becomes important that you put everything in line."

Khobragade refused to comment on the episode involving her. "No comments. I am really thankful for all your support.... I cannot make any comment. The government will speak for me. My lawyer will speak for me," she said.

Khobragade returned after she was indicted in a visa fraud case by a grand jury in New York, where she was arrested and later released on a bail of USD 250,000.

"We want it to be resolved as soon as possible. Certainly, that's our goal, but we're only part of this process," Harf said.

She said the US does not want India-US ties to be affected by the arrest of the Indian diplomat in New York.

Asked if the US was hopeful that the issue would be resolved, Harf said, "absolutely".
The US and Indian officials are believed to be working on both the diplomatic and judicial front to arrive at an amicable resolution of the issue, with American officials insisting that law would take its own course.

"We're the diplomatic part that focuses on the relationship and all the issues we work together on. There is a separate judicial and legal process that is working its way through right now," Harf said.

"There is a reason we have these processes, and hopefully that will work itself out soon as well, but I don't want to get ahead of that process, and certainly don't want to speak for it," she noted.

India has sought an US apology and withdrawal of charges against Khobragade.
The US, however, insists that this is an isolated incident.

Harf said that the US is "letting it (this entire episode) run its course" and was focused on "where to go from here because, as we've always said, the relationship with India is incredibly important."

A 1999-batch IFS officer, Khobragade was arrested on charges of making false declarations in a visa application for her maid Sangeeta Richard. She was released on a USD 250,000 bond.

India retaliated by downgrading privileges of a certain category of US diplomats among other steps last month.

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