Notwithstanding Secretary of State John Kerry expressing regret, India today hardened its stand accusing the US of not acting on several letters to it about the missing maid of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade whose arrest and strip-search has triggered an outrage.
Conflicting statements on the issue came out from the US side with Kerry regretting the treatment meted out to Khobragade, India's Deputy Consul General in New York, and India-born prosecutor Preet Bharara defending her arrest on December 12.
Bharara not only justified her arrest, he conceded that she was strip-searched and confirmed reports that maid Sangeeta Richard's family was "evacuated" to the US, claiming that efforts were being made in India to "silence" them.
The Indian Embassy here said it had sent a series of requests to the US government to trace the maid and prevent her from blackmailing Khobragade.
"No response was received from the US side for any of these communications," the Embassy said as it gave details of the series of communications it made to the US government in the last several months.
It said the only communication received from the State Department sought to defend the maid.
The statement was issued by the Embassy after Bharara criticised India's handling of the case.
Refuting reports about the manner in which the diplomat was arrested and kept in a prison with drug addicts, Bharara said she was treated well and even offered coffee and allowed to make telephone calls.
He also vowed to hold those breaking the law accountable "no matter how powerful, rich or connected they are." In a statement, Bharara said the victim's family was confronted in numerous ways regarding this case.
"Some focus should perhaps be put on why it was necessary to evacuate the family and what actions were taken in India vis-a-vis them. This office and the Justice Department are compelled to make sure that the victims, witnesses and their families are safe and secure while cases are pending." A 1999-batch IFS officer, 39-year-old Khobragade was arrested on December 12 on visa fraud charges by the State Department's diplomatic security bureau, and then handed over to the US Marshals Service (USMS). She has since been posted to India's Permanent Mission in New York.
In her complaint, the maid accused the diplomat of violating US laws by underpaying her and forcing her to work for long hours.
Khobragade was taken into custody as she was dropping her daughter to school before being released on a USD 250,000 bond after pleading not guilty in court.