'Dr Khobragade is now a Counsellor without any specific work responsibility at the PMI. There is not going to be any work for her at the mission at least for now. This is an interim measure to help her so she can get diplomatic immunity and get over this situation.'
Rediff.com's Suman Guha Mozumder reports from New York.
Dr Devyani Khobragade, India's Deputy Consul General in New York until Tuesday, December 17, was transferred to the Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations on Wednesday.
The reassignment is an apparent attempt by the Indian government to get her diplomatic immunity and shield her against criminal charges of alleged fraudulent visa applications for her housekeeper.
"She was released officially from the consulate last evening. Dr Khobragade joined the PMI as Counsellor on Wednesday morning," diplomatic sources told Rediff.com
The 39-year-old Indian Foreign Service officer was arrested December 12 and charged with having submitted fraudulent documents to the United States State Department in support of a visa application for her babysitter and housekeeper, Sangeeta Richard.
She was released by US Magistrate Judge Debra Freeman the same afternoon on a $250,000 personal recognisance bond co-signed by three people.
"Dr Khobragade is now a Counsellor without any specific work responsibility at the PMI. There is not going to be any work for her at the mission at least for now. This is an interim measure to help her so she can get diplomatic immunity and get over this situation," the sources said.
Dr Khobragade will have to apply for a new visa to the United Nations, which will be scrutinised by the State Department before it is issued. This process takes about two to three weeks.
But the catch lies there -- will the State Department approve of a diplomatic visa for a person against whom criminal charges are pending in a US court?
The Indian government, according to reports from New Delhi, is hoping that the State Department will take a considerate view given the high level exchanges between the two governments.
"Eventually, if it (the visa approval) does not work, she will have to go back, neither rejoining the consulate nor working at the PMI. Right now, although not official, it is an interim measure," the sources said.
It is understood that if she is allowed to stay on in New York and gets diplomatic immunity, then India can say that Dr Khobragade has diplomatic immunity and the US cannot prosecute her. But obviously all this is all up in the air.
Since her arrest last week, Dr Khobragade has to go every Monday for her court appearance in Manhattan. The Indian government has asked her attorney to request an exemption for her personal appearance in the pre-trial court.
In a bid to defend her, the Indian government is hoping that the criminal charges against her are dropped and downgraded to civil charges.
In two earlier cases involving Indian diplomats posted in New York -- one against former consul general Ambassador Prabhu Dayal and another against a former counselor at the consulate, Dr Neena Malhotra -- civil complaints were filed by the plaintiffs.
This is the first time a criminal complaints was filed in such a case.
"If the criminal charges are dropped and she is given diplomatic immunity, she can go back to New Delhi," the sources said.
"If not, she, unfortunately, will have to be here till the case is resolved."