The US state department's annual Trafficking in Persons (TiP) report has described India as a Tier 2 country – the same grade it was accorded last year too.
Yet the indirect reference to Devyani Khobragade who made headlines as the Indian deputy consul general in New York when she was arrested by the US law enforcement agencies for allegedly making false statements on a visa application for her housekeeper, is bound to lead to a lot of red faces on both the American and Indian sides.
This comes at a juncture when, after Narendra Modi's election as prime minister, both sides have been going out of their way to improve ties. It will be recalled that the Khobragade episode had led to a major diplomatic row between New Delhi and Washington.
The TiP report, which stops just short of naming Khobragade, says: "An Indian consular officer at the New York consulate was indicted in December 2013 for visa fraud related to her alleged exploitation of an Indian domestic worker." The description and date leaving no doubts about who is being referred to.
A source in the state department in Washington told dna that Indian embassy was trying to ensure that such a mention is avoided given how sensitive the issue is in India. "But the feeling in Washington was
that since the case was proven and she was arrested," the report should mention it."
According to her, "It's not like India is being singled out. In the past when diplomats from other countries have been caught in similar circumstances, they too have been mentioned."
No response was forthcoming from the ministry of external affairs, Khobragade or her ex-bureaucrat father Uttam Khobragade.
Thailand was relegated to the lowest rank in the state department's report, meaning it is now considered no better than North Korea, Iran or Saudi Arabia in the way it treats workers and protects them from
abuse. Qatar was demoted to a watchlist one rung above, and will join Thailand if it doesn't improve its record in the coming years, says the report.