|US embassy in New Delhi|
On 12 December 2013, Devyani Khobragade, the Deputy Consul General of the Indian consulate in New York, was arrested in front of her daughter's school with great coarseness which is the flair of most US law enforcement agencies. Later, she was the given the full treatment usually reserved for the lowest criminals, or if the 'Murican cops have an axe to grind with someone. Thus, the matter which could have been solved discreetly has turned into a full blown international diplomatic incident.
But, what was the cause of the arrest? Apparently, Khobragade took an Indian housemaid to US, and paid her less than the US minimum wage. Allegedly she also lied on the visa application that she will be paying the maid 4500 USD per month, when actually her own salary is only about 4000 USD per month.
Not that Indian officials, ministers and presidents have not be harassed by US law enforcement and security agencies in the past before, but somehow the Indian government has decided to react this time, probably because this is an election year.
In a surprising move, India has revoked several privileges enjoyed by US diplomats, including custom-free and scrutiny-free imports; and has demanded that the salaries of Indians employed by them be revealed. Also, yesterday bulldozers were seen removing crash barriers from the front of some US embassies, which were there to prevent car-bombs from ramming in. Although, I am glad that India is finally throwing some weight around, whereas in the past it had shrugged off such churlish behavior with barely a twitch, but the opposition seems to be having some ideas of its own. BJP leader Yashwant Sinha called for the arrest of the same-sex companions of US diplomats. This statement was made pointing to the recent Supreme Court decision to overturn the previous Delhi High Court decision to decriminalize sodomy.
Although, the Vienna Convention grants immunity to diplomats from prosecution by the host nation, US officials have argued that this arrest is justified because immunity only holds when the laws were violated in the process of carrying out official duties. For comparison, in 2011 when the CIA contractor Raymond Davis Allen shot two men Lahore, US had also claimed diplomatic immunity. Later, Davis was freed after US paid 2.4 million USD as blood-money. Aha, the rules apply to all but the Americans.
On the other hand, India has defended its revoking of diplomatic immunity of American diplomats by pointing to the Indian diplomatic policy guideline enshrined in the Vienna Convention Act of 1972, which states the immunities can be revoked,
if it appears to the Central Government that a State which is a party to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, 1961 is in breach of its obligations arising thereunder or, that the privileges and immunities