Devyani Khobragade transferred to UN to defuse diplomatic row with US
21 December 2013
India has transferred Devyani Khobragade, the diplomat at the centre of a row with the United States, to its UN mission, in a move to protect her from being prosecuted on the sly in the United States.
However, the US state department will have to approve her transfer to save her from prosecution for the alleged visa fraud and underpaying a maid.
Asoke Mukherji, India's ambassador to the United Nations, said he had written to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon informing him of the diplomat's transfer.
Once Khobragade receives her diplomatic card at the UN she would be eligible for greater privileges, including diplomatic protection from arrest, Mukherji said.
"We have welcomed her into our team here at the UN. I have had a meeting with her," Mukherji said. "As soon as she is accredited, we hope she will be able to discharge her responsibilities."
State department spokeswoman Jen Psaki, however, declined to speculate on whether the change in diplomatic status could prevent Khobragade from being re-arrested or enable her to leave the United States.
But she said a change in status would not provide a "clean slate from past charges."
The New York police arrested the 39-year-old Devyani Khobragade, a deputy counsel general, who has diplomatic immunity, on 12 December while she was dropping her two children to school.
She was handcuffed in public and was later subjected to a strip search like a terrorist and was made to sit with drug-traffickers. The police impounded her passport and she was allowed to go on a $250,000 bail.
While the Indian government asked the US authorities to make amends to the barbaric acts and honour her diplomatic immunity, the US prosecutor and other authorities are holding on to their stand that whatever was done to the Indian woman diplomat was according to the normal practice in the US and that Devyani Khobragade will not get diplomatic immunity in that country.
While it is hard to understand why a diplomat should be handcuffed and strip-searched for a case involving alleged false visa declaration and making false statements about how much she paid her housekeeper, also an Indian, the US authorities have bafflingly also flown the family of the housekeeper, Sangeeta Richard, out of India.
US attorney for the southern district of New York, Preet Bharara, also an Indian-American, gave the specious argument that Richard's family had been brought to the US after legal efforts had begun in India "to silence her, and attempts were made to compel her to return to India.''
Khobragade, who pleaded not guilty to charges of visa fraud, faces a maximum of 15 years in prison if convicted of both counts.