India’s crocodile tears over a diplomatic slightBy Asia Sentinel Dec 21, 2013 10:40AM UTC
Fury over the arrest of a diplomat in the US masks the fact that she appears to have been underpaying and exploiting the help writes Asia Sentinel.
The nationalist uproar in India over the arrest and search of a female member of its consular staff in New York shows India in a worse light than the US. Indeed it hints at the widespread abuse of poor South Asians at the hands of their own nationals, an issue familiar to those concerned with the welfare of migrant domestic servants.
The outcry over the arrest and search of fashionably dressed consular official Devyani Khobragade, which has elicited condemnation from none other than Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, forced an apology from Secretary of State John Kerry, and caused the outraged Indians to reduce security around the US embassy in Delhi. But it also suggests that Indian officials expect to be above the law when they are in the US.
India’s outraged officials have yet to address the issue of the visa fraud of which Khobragade has been accused. Khobragade is a consular official and thus only entitled to diplomatic immunity when carrying out consular duties. Hiring of domestic employees clearly does not come under this immunity. Yet almost the whole Indian media and political class, the same media which ignore the gross abuses of power which take place under their very noses every day, are up in arms against supposed US infringement of a diplomat’s supposed rights.
They are silent on the rights of the maid alleged to have been exploited by Khobragade. Who cares about a lower-caste, little-educated Indian maid? Certainly not the Delhi elite.
Khobragade’s rights are, we are told, superior to those of ordinary American citizens. The procedures followed by New York police may be viewed as rough and insulting to those arrested. But they are standard procedure – as former IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn found when he was arrested on suspicion of rape in 2011.
The fact is that they are normal and Khobragade was body searched by a female officer. The initiator of the charges, Preetinder Singh (Preet) Bharara, US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, is himself of Indian origin, born in Firozpur, Punjab.