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Devyani case: 'India's overreaction disappoints' US media

December 21, 2013 21:48 IST

The American media, which demanded action by the Obama administration when a junior consular staff was detained in Lahore for killing two men, has attacked the Indian government for siding with its diplomat after her arrest and ill-treatment.

"India is siding with a woman who was in the wrong – who lied, paid her help poorly and now is brazen enough to claim that she should not be treated like a criminal," said a column in The Washington Post on the arrest of Devyani Khobragade.

"What's 'deplorable', to use the prime minister's words, is not Khobragade's treatment, which was standard, but the fact that many in India aren't speaking out against the treatment of the nanny," said the column titled 'Why India is upset about Devyani Khobragade, and why it's wrong'.

"India's reaction is disappointing...," it added.

The New York Times criticised the Indian government for its stand on Khobragade, the Deputy Consul General in New York, who was arrested last week for alleged visa fraud.

"India's overwrought reaction to the arrest of one of its diplomats in the US is unworthy of a democratic government," the Times said in an editorial.

"Officials in New Delhi have inflamed anti-American outrage instead of calling for justice, especially for the domestic worker who is at the heart of the case."

"Instead of concerning themselves with that injustice, many in India seem incensed that Ms. Khobragade was arrested at all," the editorial said.

However, the daily had two years ago accused the US administration of not doing enough to bring back consular staff Raymond Davis from Pakistan after he was arrested for shooting down two men in broad daylight in Lahore.

It further said the charges brought against Khobragade by Preet Bharara, the US attorney in Manhattan, should concern anyone who values worker rights.

The editorial titled 'India's Misplaced Outrage' claimed even more disturbing was the fact that Indian officials would take extreme steps to retaliate for the arrest, such as removing security barriers at the US embassy in New Delhi.

"Despite the way many Indians seem to view the case, it is not a challenge to India's honour. It is a charge against one diplomat accused of submitting false documents to evade the law. Ms. Khobragade's lawyer said she would plead not guilty and challenge the arrest on the grounds of diplomatic immunity, which prosecutors say does not apply in this case," the daily said.

In an op-ed on CNN's website, Jeremy Carl, a research fellow at Hoover Institution in Stanford University, said India has overreacted to the diplomat's arrest.

"Even if India feels its diplomat was ill-treated, a responsible power does not inflame the situation, especially against an ally that happens to be the world's most powerful country," he wrote.

"There are many ways to show displeasure without putting the safety of American diplomats at risk. And there are more important moral and political issues that India has to address with the US that do not involve, if the charges are true, vindicating the inalienable right of India's diplomats to illegally import and underpay domestic servants," Carl said.

"...even without being able to determine Khobragade's guilt or innocence with respect to the charges, l'affaire Khobragade shines an unflattering light on several elements of India's diplomacy and its politics of privilege.

"First, whether or not the charges and manner of arrest were proper, the intemperate reaction of the Indian government in response shows that, despite its status as an aspiring great power, India still frequently lacks the maturity on the world stage to behave like one," the article said.

Image: Devyani Khobragade

Photograph: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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