With India hitting back by withdrawing certain privileges of American diplomats, the US on Wednesday said the employment of domestic workers will now be on the agenda for bilateral talks.
Washington also maintained that it is in conversation with New Delhi to "determine the way forward" in resolving the two-week-old diplomatic row over the arrest of senior Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade on visa fraud charges.
"The Department of State is in conversation with the Government of India on determining the way forward on the immediate case," a State Department official told PTI, as it continued to review the application on Khobragade's transfer from the Consulate in New York to India's Permanent Mission at the United Nations.
"However, we recognise the need to address the larger issues. The employment of domestic workers will be on the agenda for bilateral discussion in the weeks and months ahead," the official said.
The State Department official's remarks came close on the heels of India, in a tough reciprocal action, downgrading the immunity of a certain category of US diplomats and withdrawing the immunity enjoyed by their family members.
US officials in four consulates in India are being issued new ID cards specifying the limited immunity that will not protect them from serious offences. This is in line with the restricted immunity given to Indian consular officials in the US.
Khobragade, 39, was arrested on December 12 on charges of making false declarations in a visa application for her maid Sangeeta Richard. She was released on a USD 250,000 bond.
Subsequent revelations that she was strip searched and held in jail with drug addicts and criminals triggered a row between the two sides.
Her lawyer Daniel Arshack said Diplomatic Security Services agent Mark Smith, who handled the investigation and arrest of Khobragade, made a "serious" goof-up as he erred in determining the salary of her domestic help from paperwork submitted by the Indian diplomat to US authorities.
Arshack said Smith "erroneously and disastrously" concluded that the amount of USD 4,500 listed as monthly salary in the visa application form submitted by Khobragade was the payment to be made to Richard.
Arshack stated that USD 4,500 was the monthly base salary of Khobragade and not that of Richard.