Comment Pieces

Khobragade affair: Was it worth the fight?

Posted on January 10, 2014

Most wars are lost or won based on the time and terrain of the battle. The Khobragade affair reeks of an inability of the Indian government to decide on the issues it should fight for and the timing of the same.

There are no brownie points won. No sympathy for Devyani Khobragade and India was shown in a bad light all through the diplomatic row. Devyani Khobragade is no novice. She is a senior member of the Indian embassy in the US and it is quite an embarassment to be caught shortchanging a maid and falsifying evidence for procuring a visa.

There was an orchestrated outrage in India, calling the United States a bully, and blaming it for being 'insensitive' to the rights of Indians. There were stories in the press, that the maid could be a CIA agent, and both the ruling and opposition parties strained their vocal chords but in no way raised the level of the debate.

One politician asked if the United States would proceed against a Chinese diplomat in the same way? Very hypothetical. Another one mentioned that the United states diplomats bringing in their male partners should be arrested as it was against the law of the land.

One must remember that Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the head of the International Monetary Fund was arrested at the John F. Kennedy International Airport after he was removed from a Paris-bound flight 10 minutes before takeoff in 2011. However, it was a very serious case and charges of rape and molestation were levelled against him.

Not that the United States is a paragon of virtue, but one must understand that law enforcing officials do not look for political guidance at every step.

The Indian Government too acted in a knee jerk manner. It removed certain barricades before the US embassy, which were apparently put up for security reasons, and threatened to impose various restrictions on the embassy staffers and their employees. 

Devyani Khobragade is on her way to India now, having being transferred to the Ministry of External Affairs by the government but will still face criminal charges in the US if she returns without any diplomatic immunity.

The MEA has said that the official was granted diplomatic accreditation (G-1 visa) from the US state department following her transfer to the United Nations. This happened even as she was indicted in the US court for visa charges.

Well, it is a good face-saving gesture from the United States government with help from diplomats on both sides.

It might be true that relations between United States and India are going downhill after the Rafale Jet deal, but India should be aware that various arms of the government and the judiciary in the United States work in a 'fairly' independent manner and even if the government had wanted, it could not have prevented the episode.

Next time, let's show our patriotism for a greater cause.

Click here for the full text of the Khobragade indictment