Dignity of Indian diplomats needs to be accepted, asserts Salman Khurshid

New Delhi, Jan.8,: Commenting on the Indian Government’s move to ask United States to discontinue commercial activities in its embassy premises in Delhi, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid on Wednesday said the dignity of Indian diplomats should be accepted and preserved by all countries.

“Our position is clear. She (Devyani Khobragade) is an Indian diplomat and the face of Indian diplomacy in the U.S among others. We expect a friendly country like the U.S. to do what a friendly country does. If there is a problem about their internal processes and their laws, we are willing to help. We must together find a solution,” said Khurshid here today.

“But the bottom line is that the dignity of our diplomatic service has to be accepted and preserved by all our friends,” he added.

“The matter is sub-judice in the United States and we are communicating with them every day. They are giving us their point of view and we are giving them ours. We hope for a convergence between these two points of views,” he said.

Earlier today, New Delhi asked the U.S. Embassy to stop commercial activities undertaken under the aegis of the American Community Support Association (ACSA), including the restaurant, bar, video club, bowling alley, swimming pool, sports field, beauty parlour and gym.

Official sources said the United States has also been asked to provide the tax returns filed by it with Indian authorities for commercial activities, which are afforded through ACSA to non-diplomatic persons, including private American citizens and their families.

Indian authorities have cited the provision of such commercial facilities to non-diplomats as a violation of Article 41(3) of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961.

On Monday, India had firmly told the United States that there cannot be business as usual between the two countries till the case of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade is resolved. Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh is said to have conveyed this to U.S. Ambassador to India Nancy Powell when both met at Singh’s South Block office in New Delhi.

Khobragade’s lawyer, Daniel Arshack, has according to a foreign news agency report, sought the postponement of proceedings in the visa fraud case that has created tension between the United States and India, citing the need to continue “meaningful discussions” with the prosecution.

Arshack has forwarded a letter to a federal magistrate judge in New York requesting for an extension of the time by which the U.S. Government must file an indictment or commence a preliminary hearing.

Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, whose office is handling the case, however, said plea discussions can continue following the indictment in the case.

Khobragade, who was deputy consul-general in New York, was arrested on December 12 and charged with one count of visa fraud and one count of making false statements about how much she paid her housekeeper.

On the day of her arrest, she was strip-searched. The arresting authority, the US Marshals Service, said the strip search was a routine procedure imposed on any new arrestee at the federal courthouse.

Khobragade was released on USD 250,000 bail. In the aftermath of her arrest, India asked to transfer Khobragade to the United Nations. The case was adjourned until January 13 by which time the government must commence a preliminary hearing or file an indictment. Arshack has reportedly asked U.S. Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn to extend the deadline by 30 days to February 12.

Meanwhile, State Department Spokeswoman Marie Harf had said India’s application to transfer Khobragade’s accreditation to the Indian mission at the United Nations, which was made before Christmas, was still under review.

According to UN guidelines on diplomatic privileges and immunities, documents certifying diplomatic immunity, if approved, are usually issued by the US Mission to the United Nations within two weeks of the initial request.

India’s action comes ahead of the 13th January deadline for the indictment in New York of Devyani Khobragade. (ANI)