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New envoy seeks withdrawal of charges against Devyani

Source: PTI
Last updated on: December 27, 2013 15:44 IST
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India's new envoy S Jaishankar on Thursday met top American officials and sought withdrawal of charges against Devyani Khobargade even as the State Department said it was looking into the issue of full diplomatic immunity said to have been enjoyed by the diplomat at the time of her arrest.

Jaishankar, who conveyed India's strong protest over the arrest of Khobargade, also strongly objected to the manner in which the US government evacuated Indian citizens.

Immediately after presenting copies of his credentials to the Office of Chief of Protocol, he met the Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman and Under Secretary for Management Patrick F Kennedy of the State Department.

Both the meetings were dominated by the issue of the arrest in New York early this month of 39-year-old Khobragade, who was the Deputy Consul General in New York. She was later transferred to the United Nations in a bid to give her full diplomatic immunity.

During the meeting, Jaishankar is believed to have sought withdrawal of the charges, and strongly objected to the manner in which the US government evacuated Indian citizens -- family members of the maid of the Indian diplomat -- undermining the judicial sovereignty of India, sources said.

No other details of the meetings were available.

The 1999-batch IFS officer was arrested on charges of making false declarations in a visa application for her maid Sangeeta Richard. She was released on a $250,000 bond.

She was strip searched and held with criminals, triggering a row between the two sides with India retaliating by downgrading privileges of certain category of US diplomats among other steps.

Jaishankar has taken over as the top Indian envoy at a time when the two countries are engaged in intensive talks to resolve their differences over the arrest Khobragade. Jaishankar, who was earlier Indian ambassador to China, succeeds Nirupama Rao.

Meanwhile, the State Department said that it was looking into the matter of Khobragade's accreditation to the UN after India informed it that she was attached to the world body before her arrest.

"We have been advised by the Government of India that Dr Khobragade was notified to the United Nations as a member of India's delegation to the United Nations General Assembly in September. We are currently looking into the matter," State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf told PTI.

Khobragade was accredited as an "Advisor to the Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations" by the UN w.e.f. 26th August 2013 and her status as an Advisor was valid until December 31, 2013.

With the latest revelation, it has emerged that Khobragade enjoyed full diplomatic immunity including from personal arrest and detention on December 12 when she was taken into custody by the US authorities.

Leading Indian-American lawyer Ravi Batra said Khobragade can sue the US for arresting her in violation of Vienna Convention as she had the diplomatic immunity in her capacity of being a member of the Indian delegation to the UN.

"If Devyani was in fact a UN-credentialed 'Advisor' to Permanent Mission of India then she had full immunity from arrest and can file a plausible federal case of an unconstitutional false arrest against the US," Batra said.

Image: Newly-appointed Indian envoy to US S Jaishankar

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