The Obama Administration and India: Repairing the Relationship

By Gulshan Luthra

Editor’s Note: India is a crucial ally in dealing with many global security and defense issues, and certainly an essential ally in any Pivot to the Pacific.

The recent NSA’s scandals have not helped the US allied cause world wide and now an explosive situation with India needs to be dealt with.

In the editorial below written by the editor of India Strategic, the crisis is analyzed.

The recent arrest of an Indian diplomat in New York over complaints by her India-based maid, taken to USA by her for the duration of her posting, has created unprecedented tension between New Delhi and Washington.

It is normal for people from developing countries to run away to seek better pastures while in the west, and that’s what her maid did. Of course, she would lie, create allegations and some one, may be even genuinely, could take up her case on humanitarian considerations.

There are also immigration lawyers in US, who enter into contracts with illegal immigrants to help them stay there in lieu of huge sums they would earn from an employer through litigation. The immigrant gets the residence permit in return in barter.

But in this case, it seems that a US diplomat based in New Delhi – possibly a senior intelligence officer as he was in-charge of security – set up the Indian diplomat’s arrest. The maid’s father in law – or some relation – reportedly worked for this diplomat.

Why he would go to such an extent is inexplicable albeit the reasons advanced are humanitarian. The US is known to extricate its armed forces and intelligence personnel from war zones or terror-infested areas irrespective of the cost. Rightly so. But why would a maid be given such protection, and then her husband and children quietly extricated from India raises serious questions.

It would not be out of place to ask did the concerned New Delhi-based officer used her/ her family to steal documents. Or was he just too benevolent to break the rules of diplomacy for his Indian driver and his relation – the maid?

The arrest was by itself an ugly affair as the diplomat, deputy consul general Devyani Khobragade, was not only handcuffed while dropping her children to school but strip-searched and subjected to tough examinations like those for drug dealers and murderers. That made India furious. Even the Indian parliament expressed anguish and anger.

Diplomacy is about politeness, understated ways to reduce tensions, and create goodwill. Not brash and ugly connivance and behaviour.

If the US authorities did indeed have a serious criminal charge against the Indian diplomat, they should have quietly told India to withdraw her. This is the practice nearly always followed, even in the cases of spies. The polite word is “mention” and the art is well established in international diplomacy.

India has extended several facilities to US diplomats, unilaterally. New Delhi is now correctly asking for ‘what you give is what you get.’ Reciprocity is the key in bilateral relations, and so be it.

The unneeded Maid in USA irritant will have a lasting impact unless Washington mends the mistakes it committed.

There is no scope for ugliness by design or stupidity in diplomacy.

Reprinted with the permission of India Strategic:


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