External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday that the government fully supports and stands by diplomat Devyani Khobragade, who was arrested, stripped searched and placed in a jail with drug addicts in New York over commiting an alleged visa fraud.
Replying to a brief discussion on the arrest and ill-treatment of Khobragade by the US Marshals, Khurshid said the diplomat was a victim of a conspiracy created by her maid servant Sarah Richards, who has been absconding.
Despite all efforts by New Delhi, the New York police has not been able to trace Richards till now, and Khurshid suspected that the maid was set up by conspirators under a definite plan to humiliate the diplomat.
He said the immediate concern of the government is that no further indignity is meted out to Khobragade.
The government is following all legal procedures to deal with the situation.
Referring to the anger and anguish expressed by the members, Khurshid assured them that the government would not let them down.
He said the adverse US action would be repulsed in the strongest possible manner.
Khurshid said the paramount concern of the government is to intervene effectively and strongly to protect Khobragade's dignity and honour.
He also assured the House that the diplomat will be brought back to India with all respect and every action would be taken to restore her dignity and modesty.
Khurshid's statement in the Rajya Sabha was followed by an announcement that Khobragade has been transferred to India's Permanent Mission at the United Nations, ensuring that she is given full immunity from possible prosecution by the American authorities in connection with an alleged visa fraud case.
Earlier in the day, after India had announced tough measures against American diplomats posted across the country; the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said the safety and security of diplomats would not be compromised.
At the same time, the MEA reiterated New Delhi’s demand for Washington to treat the Khobragade case strictly as per the Vienna Conventions.
Responding to ANI’s question as to India’s exact position on the Vienna Conventions, MEA spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said: “The Vienna Conventions are global conventions to which all countries are committed. For diplomats like us, they are the shield and armour which protect us. Let there be no doubt that India is fully committed to implementing the Vienna Conventions.”
“We understand our obligations and our rights under the Vienna Conventions, and we will implement them fully and also ask for their implementation fully,” he added.
When asked whether there was a possibility of the security of American diplomats and staff being compromised as a result of the removal of security barriers in front the US Embassy, consulates and other institutions within the jurisdiction of the embassy, Akbaruddin said: “ “Let me assure you that there is no change in the security situation as regards any diplomats in India, including US diplomats. India is fully committed to ensuring the safety and security of all diplomats in Delhi and elsewhere.”
“So, please do not have any doubt on that score. We will provide full safety and security within the confines Indian law,” he added.
Akbaruddin’s responses on Wednesday came a day after the government gave a direction to the Delhi Police to remove barricades placed outside the US embassy in Delhi and in front and around consulates located in other parts of the country.
The removal of the security barriers was one among a series of tough measures taken against American diplomats to let Washington know that the Indian Government is extremely upset over the treatment meted out to Devyani Khobragade in New York.
New Delhi has strongly objected to Khobragade’s arrest by US Marshals outside her daughter’s school, her strip search and to her being lodged as a common criminal with drug addicts in a New York prison on alleged charges of committing visa fraud, before being released on payment of a bail amount of 250,000 dollars.
The measures that were announced include:
(1) Asked all US consulate personnel and their families to turn in their identity cards.
(2) A ban on import clearances for the American Embassy and Consulates.
(3) Withdrawal of airport passes and clearances for American diplomats based in India.
(4)Asking for salary details of Indian staff employed with the US Embassy and consulates.
(5) Asked Delhi Police to remove all security barricades outside the US Embassy and consulates and
(6) Visa details and salaries of teachers employed with the American School in Delhi and in consulate-run schools in other cities
Simultaneously, political leaders cut across party lines to refuse to meet a US Congress delegation till the diplomatic row is resolved.
Senior leaders like Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi and BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi have refused to meet the US Congress delegation.
National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon cancelled meetings in Delhi with the delegation. Menon has described Khobragade's treatment as "despicable and barbaric.
Khobragade is India’s Deputy Consul General in New York.
Earlier, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said: "It is completely unacceptable... We have put in motion what we believe will be an effective way to address this issue and protect her dignity... Everything that can be done, will be done.
Khurshid, however, met a US Congress delegation, and is reported to have conveyed New Delhi’s displeasure over the arrest and subsequent treatment of Khobragade.
"We have expressed our sense of disquiet. We have communicated the essence we feel, both in diplomatic terms, but also feel distress due to the human element. Our sense has been adequately communicated to our friends in the US," Khurshid said.
Devyani’s father, Uttam Khobragade, a former IAS officer, said: "My daughter is brave, but I am worried. There is more than what meets the eye. She has not done anything wrong.
Devyani Khobragade, 39, was arrested on Thursday. She has been accused of lying on the visa application for an Indian national who worked at her home from November 2012 to June 2013 for less than four dollars an hour.