I know some people are looking the latest steps of Indian Govt in case of Devyani Khobragade’s case as very harsh. But lets see the issue in wider perspective. Indian Envoy gets $4120 per month, US says pay nanny $4500 and envoy has written figure according to the requirement. This is the whole case where India’s Deputy Consul-General in US was handcuffed and arrested. Now in a good move Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar and National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon cancelled their meetings separately with the visiting US delegation. Now Mr. Modi, Rahul Gandhi and Home minister Sushilkumar Shinde has also cancelled their meetings with US delegates. We support our diplomat Devyani Khobragade and happy to know all leaders are acting collectively.
The outrage stems from the Department of State (US) continuously redefining ‘Diplomatic Immunity’ to suit its needs of the moment. For many years India Allowed US consulate employees privilages over other countries. But what india got in return was humiliation.
- Issued Indian government VIP passes – They can go anywhere get VIP treatment.
- Access to special launches in Airport No checking, frisking in airports.
- Free Import of Liquor.
- Regular traffic is blocked in front of all US embassies for Indian citizens.
Now the matter is, if out diplomat and consular staff are not getting similar treatment or privileges then why we are offering?? Many people are writing that we are over reacting, there is no question of over-reacting in this matter – here the idea is to balance the privileges which both countries are providing each other.
Even some people in news channels are debating this issue in context of labor laws but they should understand the outrage is because of the way she was treated in the whole case not that she was just arrested. Whether or not false documents have been submitted is something the courts will now have to decide. But bear in mind that there is already an arrest warrant pending against the housekeeper, and the assistance of the US police and State Department had been sought to serve and complete that. Also bear in mind that this housekeeper has been absconding since June and a complaint had been lodged with no action taken. Then there is the matter of an injunction passed by an Indian court restraining the housekeeper from instituting proceedings. One needs to think what right US has to evacuate the family of the maid, against whom a case is pending in the court in India. To look at this issue in a narrow and isolated manner would be to ignore a lot. The outrage isn’t about the allegations made but the manner in which consular officials and diplomats of a friendly nation are treated and an apparent disregard of reciprocity in diplomatic relations.
This is not the first time this has happened to the Indian Consulate in NYC. A few years ago, the high school age daughter of the then CG, was summarily arrested and held overnight for allegedly writing a threatening note to the principal. At that time, the DoS claimed that immunity did not extend to family members—only to the staff. Now, the Dos is claiming that immunity does not cover ‘personal acts’. If anyone remembers, in 2011, a low level private contractor to the CIA – Raymond Davis (with no proof of immunity), working in the US Consulate in Lahore Pakistan, shot and killed two men on the streets of Lahore. Guess what the US claimed diplomatic immunity.
US expects that its consular staff overseas and their entire family should have full diplomatic immunity and a variety of other special privileges, but consular staff of other countries who are stationed in the US should not expect reciprocal rights.
What the Indian govt has done now in response to this incident is to impose reciprocity – it has asked all consular staff at US consulates in India to turn in their special ID cards in order to deprive them of their broad diplomatic immunity that they currently enjoy in India, same treatment for their families, no more special privileges at Indian airports, no more special rights for the US embassy to import goods, etc. So the next time a US consular official gets arrested in India, Indian authorities should treat them according to Indian police’s standard procedure.
Article 31 of the Vienna Convention clearly provides that a diplomatic agent shall enjoy immunity from criminal action of the receiving State. The only exceptions mentioned in the Vienna Convention are that if there is a real action regarding the private immovable property located in the receiving State, the action relating to succession in which the diplomatic agent is involved or an action relating to any professional or commercial activity exercised by the diplomatic agent. These exceptions are only in relation to civil and administrative jurisdictions. With regard to criminal action again there is no exception which the Vienna Convention has carved out.
Article 41 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations also provides that Consular officers shall not be liable to arrest or detention pending trial, except in the case of a grave crime and pursuant to a decision by the competent judicial authority. The Convention clearly states that Consular officers shall not be committed to prison or be liable to any other form of restriction on their personal freedom unless there is a judicial verdict. It goes further to state that if criminal proceedings are instituted against a consular officer, he must appear before the competent authorities but nevertheless, the proceedings shall be conducted with the respect due to him by reason of his official position.
Even though the Covenants of the Vienna Conventions are clear with regard to the extent of immunity available to a foreign diplomats and consular officials, the US State Department has displayed scant regard for the established conventions. If the arrest of the diplomat raises serious questions with regard to the infringement of Vienna Conventions, the subsequent treatment meted out to her — the search, keeping the lady diplomat in custody with hardened criminals displays the cavalier manner in which the Americans are treating this issue.
As rightly said by Mr. Husain Haqqani ”The recent diplomatic tiff over mistreatment of an Indian diplomat by U.S. law enforcement authorities is neither about rule of law nor about diplomatic immunity. It involves the issue of courtesy for representatives of foreign governments, which is essential for the conduct of international relations.”