Devyani case: It's all a maid-in-US conspiracy, India says
New Delhi divulged on Wednesday that the maid's family flew out on on December 10, two days before Khobragade was arrested in New York. This was despite India informing about the disappearance of the maid in June, her attempts to blackmail Khobragade, the revocation of Richards' passport, and an arrest warrant being issued against the maid by the Delhi High Court.
India believes that the US not only acted in bad faith, but thumbed its nose at its "strategic partner" to conspire in Khobragade's arrest and her being treated like a hardened criminal by making her undergo strip search and cavity search. Manmohan Singh, who is said to have a special relationship with the Americans, on Wednesday called the US action "deplorable", while foreign minister Salman Khurshid told Parliament that India suspected a conspiracy against the Indian diplomat by American authorities.
Meanwhile, India moved Khobragade out from the consulate in New York to its permanent mission at the UN on Wednesday. This way, she will get full diplomatic immunity from prosecution as she will be accredited to the UN, not the US. The move could also be an opening for the US to drop charges against Khobragade. India has demanded an unconditional apology and dropping of all charges against the diplomat.
The window to de-escalate the situation is narrowing because the indictment against is scheduled for January. India's fundamental beef with the US is the humiliating manner in which the diplomat was treated. Citing Articles 40-42 of , the ministry of external affairs (MEA) is holding the US to the rule book.
"She is innocent ... It is not the illegality that she (Khobragade) is accused of, but the illegality she refused to oblige," Khurshid said. Going into details, he said that Khobragade "received a phone call from a lawyer who refused to identify himself and offered to settle the matter that would result in grant of permanent citizenship to her (the maid) and a huge compensation. It became clear that this was a conspiracy and some people were trapping her." He added the humiliation meted out to Khobragade had "not happened out of the blue" and there is a "history" behind it.
While not confirmed, it is believed the Richards family has been sent to US on a visa category that is reserved for victims of human trafficking, provided they assist the US authorities in the case. In other words, the ground was carefully created to arrest Khobragade. And the US didn't believe its strategic partner but an absconding maid — something that's being regarded here as an act of hostility.
Meanwhile, MEA refuted US official Nisha Desai-Biswal's contention that the Indian mission was informed of the issue in September. Calling it "dead wrong", MEA said it was India which first informed the US about the disappearance of the maid. India warned the US of the possibility of a visa fraud by Richards. Instead, it was astonished to find the US has actually facilitated it.
The MEA and security establishment have told the US that India would ensure the security of its embassy and diplomats. This came after the US publicly called for the safety of its diplomats. But the measures taken are intended to hurt the US. The loss of airport passes for an embassy that sees massive VIP traffic is certain to prove a major problem. US diplomats in their four consulates will have their IDs stamped by the police that will specify they are not eligible for any diplomatic immunity. This reflects the privileges that Indian diplomats enjoy in the US.
Between June, when Richards disappeared from Khobragade's house on the pretext of shopping, to November, when an arrest warrant was issued for her by a Delhi sessions court, the Indian government made repeated complaints and representations to the US authorities (see timeline). Each time the Indians were given no response or cooperation from the US side. On September 21, the US state department in a letter said there were "allegations" against Khobragade, for which they wanted her to come to the state department to clarify.
The MEA responded with a strongly worded letter detailing the charges against the maid, her disappearance and the developments. The US side clammed up. The Indian government also found it very strange that Richards' husband, Philip, initially filed a missing persons report about his wife but later withdrew it.
Parliament on Wednesday erupted in support of Khobragade with members, cutting across party lines, supporting the government for its retaliatory actions. The government has, however, maintained that the steps taken against the US are "reciprocal", not "retaliatory" in nature.