MEA Takes Strong Stand Against America's Remarks On Kejriwal Arrest: What Does This Mean For India-US Relations?

MEA Takes Strong Stand Against America's Remarks On Kejriwal Arrest: What Does This Mean For India-US Relations?

Although there is no clarity on who in the Ministry of External Affairs met the American diplomat, the duration of the meeting suggests the American diplomat came prepared to push back and presented the American point of view on the matter.

V SudarshanUpdated: Thursday, March 28, 2024, 08:11 AM IST
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A day after maintaining a studied silence on the remarks made by the American State Department spokesman stating that the United States was “closely following” the developments relating to the arrest of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, the Ministry of External Affairs summoned the American Deputy Chief of Mission, Gloria Berbena, to "take strong objection to the remarks about certain legal proceedings in India."

The Ministry of External Affairs said on its website, "In diplomacy, states are expected to be respectful of the sovereignty and internal affairs of others. This responsibility is even more so in case of fellow democracies. It could other-wise end up setting unhealthy precedents."

Without having provided a context, it is not immediately clear what “setting unhealthy precedents” could mean in the 'you-scratch-my-back-and-I-scratch-yours'’ world of diplomacy. The statement goes on to say: "“India'’s legal processes are based on an independent judiciary which is committed to objective and timely out-comes. Casting aspersions on that is unwarranted."

The MEA statement stressing "objective and timely outcomes" is a direct response to the American statement that said, "We encourage a fair, transparent, and timely legal process for Chief Minister Kejriwal."Media reports suggested that the meeting in the Ministry of External Affairs lasted upwards half an hour and may have gone up to forty minutes.

Normally, in the case of bigger countries like the United States, the deputy chief of mission is summoned for these lecture-like situations where serving tea and cashew nuts is not exactly a protocol. In this instance,the development is no doubt dovetailed by the fact that India is in poll mode and will not brook any statements by foreign powers that could be construed as interference. Although there is no clarity on who in the Ministry of External Affairs met the American diplomat, the duration of the meeting suggests the American diplomat came prepared to push back and presented the American point of view on the matter.

The fact remains that while the Americans are encouraging in various ways, for India to act like a bulwark against China, the Biden Administration, also in the run up to an election,cannot afford to fuel the American opposition,in case they take up cudgels on any further symptoms of democratic backsliding in India.

Which probably explains the State Department spokesman's remark that the Kejriwal situation is under a magnifying glass and the time factor underscores the need for a quick resolution of the situation. It is nevertheless significant that the Americans, almost suo motu, chose to stress the need for resolution after the Germans had been given an almost similar treatment by the MEA on March 23, after their spokesman sermonised on fair treatment to Kejriwal in no uncertain terms.

At that time, the MEA characterised the interaction with the German deputy chief of mission, as conveying India's "strong protest". Making sense of diplomatese can often be a mug's game. The question therefore arises: is there a degree of difference in the chiding while registering a "strong objection" and a "strong protest?" Your guess could be better than that of the Ministry of External Affairs.

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