New Delhi: India has firmly told the United States that there cannot be business as usual between the two countries till the case of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade is resolved.
Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh is said to have conveyed this to U.S. Ambassador to India Nancy Powell when both met at Singh’s South Block office in New Delhi yesterday.
Singh firmly told Powell that the United States is the country that has to resolve the issue.
New Delhi’s assertion assumes significance in the context of the January 13 deadline for the indictment of Khobragade on visa fraud charges in New York .
India has been demanding the withdrawal of the case against her and an apology from Washington for the treatment meted out to the 39-year-old diplomat.
Meanwhile, Khobragade’s lawyer, Daniel Arshack, has according to a foreign news agency report, sought to postpone proceedings in the visa fraud case that has created tensions between the United States and India, citing the need to continue “meaningful discussions” with the prosecution.
According to the foreign news agency, Arshack has forwarded a letter to a federal magistrate judge in New York requesting for an extension of the time by which the U.S. Government must file an indictment or commence a preliminary hearing.
Khobragade, who was deputy consul-general in New York, was arrested on December 12 and charged with one count of visa fraud and one count of making false statements about how much she paid her housekeeper.
On the day of her arrest, she was strip-searched. The arresting authority, the US Marshals Service, said the strip search was a routine procedure imposed on any new arrestee at the federal courthouse.
Khobragade was released on USD 250,000 bail. In the aftermath of her arrest, India asked to transfer Khobragade to the United Nations.
The case was adjourned until January 13 by which time the government must commence a preliminary hearing or file an indictment.
Arshack has reportedly asked U.S. Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn to extend the deadline by 30 days to February 12.
Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, whose office is handling the case, however, said plea discussions can continue following the indictment in the case.
On Monday, State Department Spokeswoman Marie Harf said India’s application to transfer Khobragade’s accreditation to the Indian mission at the United Nations, which was made before Christmas, was still under review.
“We’ve received the request for change in accreditation, but the process is ongoing and no official decision has been made yet to do that. So, there’s no change in her status as of this point,” she told a regular news briefing.
According to UN guidelines on diplomatic privileges and immunities, documents certifying diplomatic immunity, if approved, are usually issued by the US Mission to the United Nations within two weeks of the initial request.
A State Department official said there was no set time period for the process, and noted that the request had been filed just ahead of a period of government holidays.
Harf said the United States hoped to see the case resolved as soon as possible in the interest of the bilateral relationship between India and the United States, which has been strained by the case.
“We don’t want this to define our relationship going forward and don’t think that it will. If you look throughout the region, if you look at Afghanistan, if you look at energy issues, economic issues, we have a whole host of things we work together on, and those are very important and shouldn’t be derailed by this incident. The relationship with India is incredibly important, it’s vital, and that’s what we’re focused on,” said Harf.