Devyani Back In Delhi, India Expels US Diplomat In Tit For Tat

devyaniIndian diplomat Devyani Khobragade arrived in New Delhi on Friday after India and the US struck a deal in which she was indicted but granted diplomatic immunity from visa fraud charges and making false statements about the employment of her domestic worker, Sangeeta Richard.

The United Airlines flight carrying Khobragade landed at the Indira Gandhi International Airport at around 9.40pm and she came out of the terminal at 10.40 pm, her father Uttam Khobragade said.

“She is not depressed. She is fine”, Devyani’s father told PTI as he received his 39-year-old daughter at the airport along with officials of external affairs ministry.

Uttam Khbragade said he was “grateful to everyone for supporting her daughter”.

A US diplomat in India will be leaving the country at India’s request, the US state department said on Friday.

The state department on Friday said it deeply regretted India’s decision to “expel” one of its diplomats, but it hopes a “closure” has been now reached on the Khobragade issue.

Indo-US diplomatic ties suffered another blow on Friday when India asked the US to withdraw a senior US diplomat in retaliation for the expulsion of Khobragade hours after she had been indicted by a jury in New York.

An unnamed director-rank American diplomat from the US embassy was given ‘a little more than 48 hours’ to leave India even as Khobragade was on a flight home nearly a month after she was arrested and strip searched for allegedly underpaying her maid.

Arrest of Khobragade had led to tense diplomatic stand-off between the two countries which saw the US finally approving her accreditation to the UN on Wednesday which gave her full immunity against partial immunity she had in her position as deputy consul general at the time of her arrest.

Khobragade was told by the US to leave that country immediately after India refused to waive her diplomatic immunity to face trial. She had boardeded a flight to India on Thursday night.

The diplomat was understood to be closely involved in the ‘evacuation’ of the family of Sangeeta, whose husband and two children were flown to the US with tickets issued by the official travel agency of the US embassy. The diplomat is believed to have also signed the tax exemption for the air tickets using his diplomatic card.

New Delhi said that it had “reasons to believe that the diplomat is closely involved in the subsequent unilateral action by the US in the case,” the sources said without divulging the name of the American diplomat.

India’s tit-for-tat action is only the second instance of a US diplomat being expelled, the first instance being expulsion of George Griffin, then political counsellor, 33 years ago. That was in retaliation against similar action being taken by the US against Prabhakar Menon, an Indian diplomat.

It is understood that it was always the effort of the government to bring back Khobragade, who had surrendered her passport after the arrest and was out on a bail of $250,000, through G-1 visa route which would have given her full immunity.

Meanwhile, the charges against Khobragade will remain pending until such time as she can be brought to court to face the charges, either through a waiver of immunity or her return to the US in a non-immune status which were make her liable to arrest.