"In the worst setback to Indo-US ties since Devyani Khobragade's case turned into a full blown diplomatic row, US energy secretary Ernest Moniz cancelled his visit to India to attend the annual dialogue on energy cooperation between the two countries. State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki said, "in order to find a time to allow both sides to deliver on the important issues that we need to from both sides, we're looking for a mutually convenient time in the near future that will permit both sides to do that." This comes as a US court refused Ms Khobragade's request to extend the January 13 deadline for her indictment. Ms Khobragade was transferred to India's Permanent Mission to the UN, but she is yet to receive a clearance from the US. More than 20 days after the UN submitted it, America continues to 'review' the visa application of Ms Khobragade, which would give her full diplomatic immunity. The unusual delay has upset Indian officials. India has ratcheted up pressure on the US to send a message that it means business." NDTV
The Indian American who is US Attorney in New York City says this is all just a matter of the "rule of law." That is undoubtedly true but it is more than that, and is he not eager to demonstrate the present distance between him and the inerests of the country of his birth?
It is true that a consular officer enjoys only limited diplomatic immunity under the Vienna Convention. A "diplomatic agent" has complete immunity. I had that several times and it was good. Nevertheless, there are relationships of reciprocity between various countries on a bilateral basis. These relationships make foreign operations (either diplomatic or consular) a practicsl possibility. It should be expected that whatever happens to Indian personnel in the US will be reflected in treatment of US diplomats in India.
Not surprisingly, diplomats abroad wish to continue to live as they do in their home country. Diplomats are not immigrants to the country in which they are stationed for a few years. they are stationed here and there for a few years at each post. For that reason, their lives are supported by their clubs, schools and government provided housing. Americans behave in these circumstances exactly the same way as foreign diplomats.
This consular officer seems to have thought that the American government would not press the matter of how much she intended to pay her Indian national servant or how many hours she would make her work. This happens often. There have been a lot of similar incidents in Washington. The normal sequence of events is the expulsion of the offending diplomat without further molestation.
That did not happen in this case. A decision to arrest this Indian Consul rather than to simply expel her had to have originated high up in the Obama Administration since it was clear that there would be major repercussions in India. This decision seems to reflect the generally "missionary" attitude of the United States. It is reminiscent of the recent BHO decision to send a gay delegation to Sochi to teach the Russians to behave according to the generally self important attitude of the Obama Administration.
It is clear (to me) that the United States has not learned as yet that it cannot act as "mother" to the world. The R2P ladies are behind this, they and our first breast fed president.
We have once again met the enemy "and he is us." pl
FWIW: Foggy Bottom did advise the Indian Embassy, back in September, that one of their staff in NYC was under investigation and the reason of that investigation. The Indian authorities did nothing – it is not the first case from this consulate: this is the third one:
I agree that the treatment applied to her was harsh and the bureau of diplomatic security screwed up by letting the US Marshals take over her case. Foggy Bottom should have put pressure on the Indian Embassy by requesting a waiver for her diplomatic immunity (even as a junior diplomat) in situ or demand that she leaves the country thus it would have been a closed case between Foggy Bottom and the MEA of India.
Another piece of news: Her husband is a US citizen and as a rule from the Indian Govt, a diplomats spouse must take Indian citizenship. However, this has never been initiated.
You seeking to justify the moralistic BS inherent in the US’s action. pl
Far from it – both sides are wrong:
the US treatment more so as far as not understanding the meaning of diplomatic immunity, fully accredited or not (after the stunt Foggy Bottom and the CIA pulled in Pakistan wrt the agent who killed two ISI agents: “it’s a do like I say not like I do”).
– India for not applying “lessons learned” after being caught twice at the same consular office. From September to December, India had plenty of time to usher her out of the country but it was not to be since this will play against the goal of that diplomat, which is either representing her country at the UN or being given a management position as an International Civil Servant like Shashi Tharoor at the UN (subsequently a potential candidate in some yrs when the UNSG position is vacant and assigned to a candidate from that region).
I would love to know more about the case. For example, did the maid receive “in-kind” compensation, such as room and board? That alone would have far exceeded minimum wage, considering Manhattan rents.
I find it telling that the Obama administration finds time to chase after Indian consular figures rather than domestic banksters, war profiteers and drug kingpins.
The R2P ladies needs to start focusing on protecting American taxpayers rather than pursuing jay walking ticket scofflaws to the ends of the earth.
The strong Indian reaction may well be due not just to her arrest but the manner in which it was carried out. There is a video going around showing her being held down by several marshals and strip-searched (possibly including her body cavities) with sounds of her distress. The video is not clear and it is not certain it is of her.
However, the horrifying thing is that the US authorities claim that this treatment is meted out to everyone who is arrested. No one deserves to be treated in this manner. That it should be happening in the US is a sign of just how far things have gone there.
How much money will business owners (who contributed to BHO) who do business in India (or with Indian companies) lose because of this? They should expect to continue to lose millions as those mid-level staffers educated (indoctrinated perhaps) in the same mold as the decision makers in the BHO administration continue to get promoted and advanced across the federal (and state) government. Perhaps they should take a page from the governor of Soprano land and ‘explain’ to the politicians who’s staffer(s) have so screwed them and start funding opponents – and fire any such former administrative hacks as they might have hired.
The treatment applied to her was harsh? This is abusive to everyone. Why is the US government conducting a strip and body cavity search on everyone (per the NYT 12/18) “the same search procedures as other U.S.M.S. arrestees held within the general prisoner population in the Southern District of New York.” ? All arrested do not pose the same risk to other prisoners or employees of the courts or prison system. It is the same authoritarian mentality in the government that we saw in all the illegal searches conducted in Boston after the Tsarnaev brothers set of a bomb during the marathon. I believe they call conforming to the police requirement that you give up your rights any time they say you must ‘Boston Strong’. But hey, everyone was treated equally so it must be okay.
It is totally unclear if the diplomat really paid too little for the helper. As I understand housing and food etc. was part of the total pay. How valuable is that in New York?
Also the helper ran away in August under somewhat murky circumstances. I find the U.S. media just repeating the prosecutor’s claims without any doubt quite offensive in this case. How, if the prosecutor is right, can a minor paper infringement justify an arrest and even a strip search? In no country but the U.S. and some rather infamous dictatorships would such be seen as normal.
The whole bungled affair over the course of a month brought new US-Indian business deals to a stop and corroded away goodwill between parties that took several years to build. State and MEA did a horrible disservice to their respective countries and might as well have been driving clown cars.
Foreign relations is IMO about making relations with other countries work and to limit oneself to the important things, and in particular, for anybody whose name is not Netanyahoo, it is not about educating or lecturing the opposite parties.
This here is the US needlessly and deliberately snubbing India, because some US party felt good about ‘the message so sent’ that Indian diplomats in the US must pay ther Indian servants acording to US employment laws.
One cannot even say that there was no reflection on what that message actually conveyed, just illusions over whow it will be understood.
The culprits are just so self-righteous that they don’t see that their ‘principled stance’ to about anybody else is a provocation.
Only two hundred year ago wars were fought over ‘insults’ like that to representatives of sovereigns (which on the plus side must have had the effect that diplomats were weighing such actions carefully).
A selective, judicious application of the law is sensible and necessary in such cases. The US side showed poor judgement, and worse, probably prides itself on having come done so.
Yes, it is all happened on US territory, but so what? All that claptrap about that the US is just ‘eforcing the law’ is nonsense with the person subjected to the strip search being a diplomat who should have been protected from such invasions, and from such law enforfcement, in the first place.
In effect the US is enforcing US law on India and Indian diplomats, and in doing so is violating the Vienna Protocols on consular immunities:
Article 41 that “1. Consular officers shall not be liable to arrest or detention pending trial, except in the case of a **grave crime** and pursuant to a decision by the competent judicial authority.” (emphasis mine)
IMO, paying a servant not according to US laws is not a grave crime.
But here the underlying idea is obviously that the US cuplrits see it in their rigth right to demand Indian diplomats to conform with US law, Indian consular or diplomatic privilege be damned.
An issue in itself is the apparently routinely ham fisted way in which US law enforcement has conducted itself here.
I cannot see a reason how, in a case of a diplomat accused of paying her servant not according to US law, of all things, a cavity search could posibly be reasonably warranted. What that was pertinent to the case were they searching there? Her servants employment contract? Well, wih these aliens and foreigners, one never knows where they put things …
The only reason for the cavity servh was probably that this sort of excess is the unthinkingly executed SOP.
Well, with SOP, who needs individual judgement? And with SOP like that, what room left is there for excess? Well, come to think of it, they still could perhaps have beaten or tasered her in addition to what they subjected her to, and they could have shot her dog, or the underpaid servant, on arrest …
It is fairly predictable that in India all this must be conceived as a deliberately humiliating treatment, and they don’t care that US authorities treat US persons just as unthinkingly ham fisted.
Good working relations between India and the US should trump in importance White House and State Deparment weenies feeling good about themselves over having been tough on India over this trivial social issue.
For what I ask.
Self restraint and sound judgement ought to be part of the job.
What I see here is instead an imperious inpulse.
With ‘Diplomats’ like that, who needs anti-American radicalisers?
India will reciprocate, in fact has already. The US don’t respect the privileges and personal integrity of protected staff? India can play that game also:
Interesting chart on diplomatic and consular immunities:
Col: terrible policy and worse psycho-drama. I imagine that our US attorney is repelled by the horrific class system of his family’s country of origin. But it’s the ultimate yuppie conceit to damage America’s interests “to make a point.”
“However, the horrifying thing is that the US authorities claim that this treatment is meted out to everyone who is arrested. No one deserves to be treated in this manner.”
Beyond the remarkable diplomatic stupidity on display in this episode, this is IMO by far the most disturbing thing here.
US police authorities are by now probably the most severe in the western world.
Long gone are the days of the ‘peace officer’. What the US appear to have now is law enforcement with an emphasis on ENFORCEMENT, or else.
The elemt of coercion is dominant, and officer safety paramount. SWAT teams, with their paramiilitary trainig and the emphasis on subduing resistance, have proliferated and today are seen conducting routine operations like serving warrants.
All this suggests an adversarial attitude towards the civilian population at large.
The strip search, including cavity search, as an SOP, without the necessity for any cause, is instructive.
It means the police is not asking for your cooperation – they are taking what they think they need, and if you know what’s good for you you comply or they’ll only come down heavier on you (heavier as as in two 180 pound cops).
The monitoring of communication traffic by the NSA is born of the same paramilitary mindset.
In essence, we witness in the US the scrutinisation of everything private, be it the contents of your E-Mail, your shopping or browsing history, your movements as tracked by your cellphone – or, by SOP, the contents of your bowels.
Because citizens no longer trusted their privacy is no longer respected?
It also means that, even when police overreach (which happens on occasion) and act illegally, defiance, let alone resistance or self defence is not a realistic option for resistance will be broken with overwhelming force.
We witness a paramilitary attitude on part of the police.
Somewhere along the way, respect for citizen rights, let alone civilised behaviour, went out the window, sacrificed for the sake of being tough on crime and officer safety über alles.
If the US citizenry wants to right that, they have their work cut out for them, for changing it will take generations.
I agree that the police in the US are out of control and should be reined in. They increasingly behave as though they are an occupying army and they are remarkably fearful. the spectacle of thousands of heavily armed police surrounding one cornered man in Boston is illustrative. I have seen the FBI fake evidence and bribe witnesses. This was in the Pete Seda case in Oregon. I am unimpressed. pl
Could it be possible the ball got rolling more with low level prosecutor cupidity and policing overreach rather than White House moral stupidity? And once rolling the feds felt all in? Doesn’t seem all that plausible to me that this was intentionally orchestrated from the top from the outset in some kind of moralistic crusade. If there was some kind of WH moralistic urge – or a political grudge at the top – at the instigation of it, well what a naif I am, and god help us.
The ex post facto handling of it is, of course, the quality of diplomacy we’ve come to know and expect.
O/T it turns out that SST is not the only the only, er, chronicler of The John Kerry Traveling ME Review of Same Old Same Old. Israeli settlers’ groups have taken to the arts to express their heartfelt dedication to a er, solution.
If I used the word “harsh” this does not mean that I do agree with the US govt.for treating a foreign-looking person like dirt.
Strip search and cavity search have been going on since 9/11 whether you are an innocent tourist looking like a MEasterner taking pictures in the city ( chances to get your head bashed against the wall in addition if you don’t understand the American slang) or just a druggie trying to buy that little packet at a corner street in NYC.
In this case, the US marshals and the DA did not stick to the 27-page handbook published by the Diplomatic security Bureau of the State Dept on how Law enforcement should deal with foreign diplomatic agents, their immediate family and their personal employees in different situations.
NO – this is the M.O. in NYC, guilty before being declared innocent- the yahoo way for maintaining the security of the nation or the political appointees/elected officials have their own personal agendas.
As a foreigner, I have stopped taking contracts from US companies- reason: life has been HELL at the airports since 9/11 for me ( my career has taken a hit since i can’t work for other non-western companies-security clearance of hubby will be problematic) and since i am a guest on this blog, it is not my place to bad-mouth the US or its govt and its policies.
“Khobragade had been indicted by a federal grand jury on one count of visa fraud and one count of making false statements about the compensation given to her housekeeper, Sangeeta Richard. Federal prosecutors alleged that Khobragade promised in Richard’s visa application to pay her at least $9.75 per hour for no more than 40 hours per week; however, Richard actually received less than $3.31 per hour and worked much longer hours. Khobragade reaffirmed her innocence as she left the United States.”
-Foreign Policy Magazine
As has been said, it is mind-boggling that relations with India should be interrupted over such a petty matter, with such a ham-handed act. India is a fellow descendant of the British Empire, and in my opinion, be afforded an informal, yet understood, brotherhood status. Yet on the day of his first inauguration (election?) he called Pakistan, but not India. Sorry for the jingoism, but damn.
*Colonel, please note the email change.
An appalling sequence of events which, if initiated at high levels, displays arrogance and stupidity. Those two traits seem often to go together. If initiated locally, then a complete failure of common sense and discretion.
In the arrest procedure, the subjecting of. Madam Khobragade to being stripped and poked in intimate areas of her body while being detained on the allegation of underpaying her servant seems bizarre in the extreme. My take on that is that the goal is humiliation and degradation of the individual. It’s something a more kinky Franz Kafka might have imagined in one of his stories.
This is how A-3 visa are granted to personal/domestic servants:
A-3: Embassy or consulate
G-5: International organizations
Had her husband been the actual employer? a B-1 visa
In the Ministry of External Affairs books, the maid is considered as an employee of the Indian government, thus her compensation should be as in the home country.
This is a dangerous perversion of the idea of “the rule of law.” The state and its agents can always coercively enforce the laws that it makes for itself: they have the power of the state behind themselves, after all. What makes for a real “rule of law” is the state willing and able to commit itself to limit the potential use and (abuse) of its powers–if the state can bend and break the law legally (intentional paradox) to get whatever it wants, why should the civilian population cooperate with it by obeying the laws? This recognition is increasingly lacking in American society: everyone thinks “I am right, therefore I am justified in doing whatever I can to do what I want to do.” This is a dangerous development indeed.
So when she was strip and cavity searched, what were they looking for, the passport, the visa, the missing maid or all three?
I would very much doubt that this was ‘intentionally orchestrated from the top’.
However, there may be a mentality which links different levels: a bizarre amalgam of prim sanctimoniousness and underlying brutality.
No one would have dared to arrest this woman on these charges without WH permission. pl
I did not intend to be personal. I agree 100% that these policies are idiotic but is the MO in NYC. Apprently the Americans living there are either ok with that or haven’t been subject to the treatment (which is probably more likely).
Let’s put it that way: some working for the whole security/law enforcement/foreign affairs compendium are in need of some acute sensitivity training .
A list of examples on why India is so miffed at the US:
Re: “This is a dangerous perversion of the idea of “the rule of law.”
The US does have an admirable tradition of rule of law and governance in many areas. Now, how much of it is still alive?
Last I looked Gitmo was still open, the US executive branch claims, unchallenged politically, unlimited detention without charges, the right to kill US citizens based on executive whim, and that pesky torture issue has still not been dealt with.
On torture, Obama stance is that he could do it, but won’t. Hardly comforting, coming from a guy who habitually sends out armed drones to blow up brown skinned people in far away lands without so much as a second thought?
Then add to that police overreach, domestic spying and abominations like asset forfeiture, excessive sentencing and the immense power of plea bargains in a politicised US attorney system where winning a case counts more than delivering justice.
But of course, none of that is sparing us from getting lectured by US politicos on matters of governance and rule of law. Because America knows best.
Exceptionalism is apparently a miraculously soothing thing.
It’s telling that newspaper accounts could care less about her side of the story, the servant’s actual deal, or the legal aspects you cite. As is standard, the media only parrots the US government’s allegations.
You have to believe that BO was spoiling for a fight with India…for reasons yet unfathomable. Did they cross him on Afghanistan?
The video turned out to be a fake.
Fred, this whole diplomatic mess (mishandled by both countries) has been a disaster for companies doing business in India. The level of distrust and ill will skyrocketed and I do not believe it is over yet. Keep in mind that this is an Indian election year and strangely coincidentally the diplomatic blow up happened two days before US congressmen were to meet Modi who is likely to be the next PM of India and to which the US denied a visa. The meeting was canceled and an ill wind blows. Also within a day or so protestors in India had pre-printed signs and banners made up and waiting for the WaPost and others to photograph.
Wonder how many Dahleites [India’s lowest caste] make it into the Indian diplomatic corps?
Strip search and body cavity searches [usually justified on grounds of “security”] are in dramatic evolution in the USA
and usually require not just state by state but local government analysis! Of most interest is that federal departments and agencies differ and even components in DHS [note a department headed throughout its history by lawyers noted for their failure as heavy lifters]!
And of course India the world’s largest “democracy” is faced with its greatest “existential” threat its failure at internal reform!
Did you know that Communists control large portions of India? And that Capitalists control large portions of China often masquerading as the PLA?
Many casual North American observers look at Bollywood, Gandhi, and the Indo-Pak rivalry…and assume Indians are merely “new age” versions of “us”. Perhaps they conceive of India as another Israel, some quasi-socialist republic?
No. Indians are deeply socially conservative. They take honour seriously. They take chastity seriously.
Most marriages are arranged. Women are expected to be virgins until marriage. Most women don’t work. There is no popular conception of “dating”. Both the police & public reject displays of “PDA”.
The typical Indian has much more in-common with his Pakistani neighbour than his American employer.
Most Indians will instinctively perceive this incident as an act of perversion & humiliation – designed to steal the honour of a noble woman (class also matters in India).
The silly thing is, if the American officials wished to make a point on behalf of the servant…they could have merely publicized the Indian diplomats fraud to the Indian public. Class matters – and there are many struggling Indians all-too aware of the injustice of their serfdom. The Indian diplomat would have been perceived as the villain – while the Americans would have been associated with the popular moral reformers & folk heroes of the continent.
Ils sont fous…ces Romains,
I’m going to put out some info which might gobsmack some of you from a PR foot-in-mouth angle. I’m ignoring the rights/wrongs/privileges part of the arrests
Most of you have some ideas on untouchability/caste system of India, right? The consul lady who was arrested was a dalit, a supposedly untouchable caste.
Irrespective of the rights and wrongs, of all the people to arrest out of India, the US picked the one successful dalit to arrest! Fighting for WWide Human rights (caste/creed/orientation), the US has managed to arrest a dalit lady and humiliate her. Do you see why Dalits, of all people are protesting against the USA now? They’re usually the strongest pro-US people.
This takes a special kind of diplomatic stupidity to do.
Another reason why India flipped out over her arrest.
I’m beginning to think that the Col. Lang’s guesses on this episode are more likely than ever. Going “missionary” and making an example of the one dalit officer.
I read that median rent in Manhattan is slightly over $3000/month for a 1 bedroom. The outer boroughs would be somewhat cheaper as would New Jersey.
Some more background:
The father in law and the mother in law of the maid work for U.S. diplomats in Dehli. When the maid got somehow pissed at her employer they pushed that diplomat to take up the case. He did so and caused the whole ruckus. He also organized for the family of the maid to be “evacuated” to the United States after Indian officials asked them to rein in their daughter.
The “visa fraud” issue is none. There was some informal diplomatic arrangement that Indian diplomats pay their Indian househelpers the Indian rate. That is, officially, not always kosher but to use that point to go after the Indian diplomat is outside of the usual diplomatic behavior.
This was clearly a case of personal vendetta and the maid only succeeded because some U.S. diplomat went off the official path and put himself onto the “case”. That person, and his bosses in state, should be fired.
According to the story in Saturday’s Times: At the airport she told the State Department official with her: “You have lost a good friend. It is unfortunate. In return, you got a maid and a drunken driver. They are in, and we are out.”
What a diplomat!!
Michael Conelly, iirc in Black Ice gave his hero, Harry Bosch, an interesting thought along that these lines:
Harry Bosch sat on a chopper with a younger drug cop on a ride to a big drug bust, and it reminded him of his own time in Vietnam, culminating in his thought about the drug cop at his side: ‘This is his war.’
In that brief sequence, Conelly IMO captures, without going further, a crucial problem that the drug war and the War on terror pose for America.
America, by choice, has brought war home, by choosing to militarise police problems. The militarisation of the police was the inevitable consequence of the political approaches taken on drugs and terrorism.
It is no accident that one can hardly distinguish a SAWT team from DELTA force anymore, or that the two even train together on ocasion and have often identical equipment.
The wall of separation that previously had existed between law enforcement and the military didn’t simply collapse at some point, it was delibertately torn down.
It is also no accident that the use of surveillance or infiltration by US police departments and their approach to population mirror the approaches towards population control taken by military forces that occupies places like Afghanistan or Iraq. Since America is a warzone in the age of the GWOT everyone is suspect and must, for 360° defense, be surveilled and scrutinised – be it the anti-war quaker meeting at the prayer room, an occupy wall street protest or that mosque down the street.
The war on drug and terror and the exchange of tools, methods, training and people between the military and the police forces have led to a fusion of appraoches and blurring of taks and proprities. The big money made available for the GWOT only has accelerated that trend. Iirc the FBI has recently traded as core taks law enforcement for national security in their self description.
In their excesses, police forces mirror in their approach “the way it’s done” by the military – and heavy handedly put down perceived or potential resistance with overwhelming force.
If the perceived goal is to fulfill the mission ‘to defeat the enemy’ or to ‘win the fight’, it is also not surprising to see law enforcement try to nail people they have identified as the enemy – the suspects – and go after them with all the tools (legal, illegal, extralegal) at their disposal.
There is in light of such a zero sum mentality little room for the other aspect of police work, the finding out the truth by also collecting and analysing exculpating evidence also
Trifles like that cost time and don’t produce result that find themselves in ‘metrics’ like cases solved, or arrest and sentencing stratistics – things on on which mayors, cops and prosecutors build political careers.
To rein that in will be a monumental task.
A rather different, and one might say more ‘Machiavellian’ interpretation of this bizarre affair has been produced by the former Indian career diplomat M.K. Bhadrakumar.
He is an Indian leftist, with his own axes to grind, which may perhaps incline him on occasion to be excessively prone to accept conspiratorial explanations, but he is certainly not a stupid man. And given the utter implausibility of so many of the competing versions of these extraordinary events, his is I think worth adding into the mix.
It is also of interest that it surfaced on the ‘Asia Times’ site, and that the link from there is to a Russia site called ‘Strategic Culture Foundation’.
My impression of this site is that it is very strongly ‘Eurasianist.’ At the risk of grotesque oversimplification, I think it is possible that the underlying view of many contributors to the site may well be that Putin has been excessively prone to a traditional liberal Russian naivety about the West, but that the course of events is inexorably making him see sense.
Seeing sense means looking East, to the economically dynamic areas of Asia, rather than to the West, which just goes on producing one lecture after another — not least about the virtues of ‘gay rights’.
My reading of Bhadrakumar is that he may represent what is still very much a minority view in India, according to which that country’s interests would best be served by what one might call a ‘Eurasian consolidation.’ Although very different, this vision has a good deal in common with that of the ‘Ostlers’ in the German Foreign Ministry in the Thirties.
The tradition of the ‘Ostlers’ certain seems as marginal in contemporary Germany as that of figures like Bhadrakumar in India. However, if the United States — and also the U.K. — cannot display a little more sensitivity to other people’s susceptibilities, it is not entirely out of the question that at some future point this might change.
In any case, it might be helpful if people in Washington and London had some interest in what ‘Ostlers’ like Rudolph Nadolny and Werner von der Schulenberg argued. The lost possibilities of the past can, in certain circumstances, become relevant to the future — even if nobody is expecting it.
Be all that as it may, Bhadrakumar’s article is well worth reading. It is available at: