Was the Devyani Khobragade incident a symbol for loss of clout?

The UPA was ruling when Devyani Khobragade, an Indian diplomat was proclaimed by several weighty Indians as a symbol of India’s offended dignity. Her arrest for her problems with her maid servant had become the cause of a serious rift between India and the United States. She was acting as India’s deputy consul general in New York. Her offence was noted as short payments she was making to her maid, Sangeeta Richard. It was less than $1.42 an hour which falls short to the minimum legal wage in USA. The charges were not fully digested by Indian Classes and Indian authorities, as retaliation, removed security barriers at the American Embassy in New Delhi. Willy nilly, the then sophisticated minister of external affairs Salman Khurshid had to summon the US ambassador to register India’s anger at the “insult.”

Devyani Symbol of Indias Loss of Clout

What Followed

A number of privileges that were accorded to American diplomats were cancelled. It is believed that the resignation of Washington’s ambassador to India, Nancy J Powell was a fallout of that ugly diplomatic fracas. On its part, the State Department granted Ms. Khobragade diplomatic immunity and told her to leave the country.

Our beloved PM Narendra Modi was prominent to protest against the US action against Devyani and one can still recall his famous tweet – “Refused to meet the visiting US delegation in solidarity with our nation, protesting ill-treatment meted to our lady diplomat.” To save the hurt pride of Mother India, the then BJP leader Yashwant Sinha had asked India to retaliate by throwing the same-sex companions of gay and lesbian American diplomats behind bars since the Indian Supreme Court had just criminalized gay sex.

It was the time of nationalism and competition of demonstrative anger against US administration’s victimization of an Indian diplomat. It US, the twin inquiries into Ms. Khobragade’s actions found that she had violated regulations by failing to inform the government that her children had been issued American passports, and she was penalized for that.

Devyani Row Symbol of Indias Loss of Clout


Ms. Khobragade’s status was changed to “compulsory wait,” indicating that she is between postings. She told NDTV that she had not violated any internal regulations in her recent interviews and that there was no discussion of her resigning from her post. Her father, Uttam, said that officials were restricted only from criticizing the government in the press, and that in her interviews, “Devyani didn’t talk against the government or about the government.” He said his daughter was being treated badly. “Compulsory wait is not a punishment, but a way to harass the person,” Mr. Khobragade said in a telephone interview from Mumbai. “Why is it being done? Only the government can tell you. How do I know?”

Not much has flown below the bridges of either Hudson or Yamuna and now the ministry of external affairs of NDA has said in an affidavit in court that Khobragade’s acts raise “serious doubts about her integrity.” Khobragade’s problem right now is that her children hold American and Indian passports and she did not inform the ministry about that. She insists she broke no rules. The ministry has a different take. “Devyani willfully violated government rules and provisions of various acts that bar holding of US passport and Indian diplomatic passport for her daughters” the ministry told the Delhi high court according to the The Hindustan Times. Today, Khobragade had become a symbol of India’s loss of clout.

By Naim Naqvi

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