Efforts to resolve the Indo-US diplomatic standoff over senior diplomat Devyani Khobragade's arrest continued yesterday with both sides stating that they are in “conversations” to find a way out.
Publicly their common refrain was that the bilateral relationship was extremely valuable, though Washington continued to harp on their line that Devyani would not enjoy diplomatic immunity “retroactively”. She has since been transferred to the Indian Mission to the UN to give her full immunity.
The two countries' ties have warmed considerably since they were on opposite sides of the fence during the Cold War. They now participate in joint security exercises and Washington sees India as a valuable strategic partner in the troubled region.
But the world's two largest democracies have been at loggerheads since the arrest of Devyani, who said she was handcuffed and subjected to an invasive body search.
The diplomat, a mother of two, now free on bail, was arrested over accusations that she lied about the salary she was paying her Indian servant in a US visa application.
According to New York authorities, she was paying the domestic worker a third of the figure mentioned in the visa application.
But her treatment has caused outrage in India, with the government urging Washington to drop the case and apologise.
Delhi has made a series of moves against the United States, bulldozing security barricades around the US embassy and snubbing a visiting US delegation.
External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid maintained his conciliatory tone when he termed the relationship “extremely exceptionally valuable”, a sentiment reciprocated by the US State Department which said, “it is important to preserve and protect our partnership“.
Khurshid told reporters in New Delhi, “We are in a conversation at different levels. Let the conversation go to its logical conclusion.”
In Washington, a State Department Spokesperson also said the US was continuing the conversation with Indian counterparts privately to resolve the situation.
Asking the US to “understand the value of the relationship”, Khurshid asked whether it was “unreasonable” for India to expect Washington to allow its diplomat to serve with dignity.
The State Department maintained that even if there was a change in the status of Khobragade from being Deputy Consul General with limited immunity to being posted to the UN mission where she gets full immunity, there would not be a “clean slate” from the past charges.