December 17, 2013

India is enacting reprisals against the U.S. following the arrest of diplomat Devyani Khobragade in New York last week. Khobragade was accused of getting her housekeeper’s work visa with fake documents and then paying the housekeeper less than minimum wage. Indian politicians have expressed outrage over what they believe was poor treatment by law enforcement against Khobragade--some local newspapers report that she was strip searched--and New Delhi police have removed security barriers around the American Embassy in retaliation. The Indian government has also ordered all ID cards issued to officials at U.S. consulates around the country to be withdrawn and all clearances for imports to the U.S. embassy, including alcohol, have been stopped.


"US law enforcement officials admitted that a female Indian diplomat was strip-searched after she was arrested last week, in a case which has sparked fury and fierce reprisals from India.

Amid a growing row, New Delhi is taking a series of measures against US diplomats in the country after the arrest on Thursday in New York of deputy consular general, Devyani Khobragade.

India has denounced her arrest while she was dropping her children off at school as "humiliating."

She was detained for allegedly underpaying her domestic helper who is also an Indian national and for lying on the helper's visa application form.

State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf admitted it was a "sensitive issue" but insisted it was a "separate and isolated incident" which should not "be tied together" and allowed to affect broader US-Indian ties."

Harf explained that Khobragade does not have full diplomatic immunity, but has consular immunity which "only applies to things done in the actual functions of one's job."

The US Marshals Service (USMS) said that Khobragade "was subject to the same search procedures as other USMS arrestees held within the general prisoner population in the Southern District of New York."

Now Indian officials are retaliating. Today, Indian authorities removed concrete security barricades from outside the embassy complex in New Delhi.

Officials also downgraded American diplomatic privileges, withdrawing airport passes, stopping import clearances -- including alcohol -- for the US embassy, and demanding that Consulate staff turn in their ID cards.

An opposition leader and former finance minister suggested arresting the same-sex partners of U.S. diplomats, after India’s Supreme Court last week upheld a law outlawing gay sex:

“The media has reported that we have issued visas to a number of U.S. diplomats’ companions. ‘Companions’ means that they are of the same sex,” Yashwant Sinha told NDTV on Tuesday. “It is completely illegal in our country. Just as paying less wages was illegal in the U.S. So, why doesn’t the government of India go ahead and arrest all of them? Put them behind bars, prosecute them in this country and punish them.”

Khobragade, India's deputy consul general for political, economic, commercial and women’s affairs, has repeatedly put herself out in the press as an advocate for “underprivileged” women’s rights.

According to documents submitted by Khobragade to the U.S. State Department she was paying her female nanny and housekeeper $4,500 per month. But in reality, the caregiver received only $573 monthly, or $3.31 an hour.

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