Devyani Khobragade was a mid-level consular official in NYC who was arrested at her child's school, handcuffed, and processed by authorities. She was subjected to a strip search and (it is alleged) a cavity search. 

The accusation: She cheated her Indian nanny by paying far less than the minimum wage. She allegedly paid her maid only about $3.50 figured on a 40 hour week. However, it's also alleged that the maid worked as many as 100 hours per week. She's also charged with preparing false VISA documents for the maid, which may technically be the more serious charge.

Last Sunday, Fareed Zakaria—a CNN commentator and Indian whose hour-long Sunday show I always try to catch—explained that in India, misrepresenting facts on official documents is a universal way of dealing with corrupt or overly-officious government officials. He called the situation a "culture clash."

Zakaria also argued that, despite its recent economic advances, which have given it an affluent middle class, India remains a poor country. The implication being that Khobragade couldn't really afford to pay her nanny anything like an American fair wage.

What Zakaria seems to have overlooked or ignored is the fact that Khobragade comes from a prominent, powerful, and monied family. She, in fact, co-owns two apartment blocks in India with her father, who seems to leave corruption allegations wherever he goes. 

It certainly seems that Khobragade could have afforded to pay the legal wage out of her own pocket, even if the consular service wouldn't pay it, 

The prosecutor behind the arrest is an Indian-American named Preet Bharara is viewed in India as an Uncle Tom who wants to prove how American he is due to his political ambitions.

As so often happens when some official on any level of government does something, overseas it is attributed to "the US government." So, many commentators portray this as something fomented by the Obama administration. In fact, US prosecutors, even on the Federal level, are insulated from interference from above. It is the same in India, so shame on them for not realizing this. Obama and the State Department have no more influence over the prosecutor than do you and I.

In case you are wondering, a mid-level consular official has only limited diplomatic immunity according to international agreements. The immunity extends only to deeds done in relation to Khobragade's official duties. I hinted in the first paragraph that she "was" a mid-level consular official. India solved her problem on their end by promoting Khobragade to a UN position with full immunity. 

Obama and Sec'y of State Kerry have expressed regret and, in the case of Kerry, an apology. In India, this is a very big thing which is stirring anti-Americanism. It may drive India away from India and into the arms of Russia or other countries we don't regard as allies (though not China, which is India's main economic competitor in Asia).

What is your opinion? Have I missed anything important? Does this situation mean anything for Indian-American relations? Should it ever have reached this level?

Tags: Devyani, India, Khobragade, diplomatic, immunity

Views: 1092

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

Interesting, good read. As far as a comment, I'm not well versed in American law, the current state American - Indian relations, in depth knowledge of the case and the people in it. In truth, my opinion of this case would be a shot in the dark and it wouldn't help anyone to be blurting it out when it may take light off someone whom is better informed.

What I can say, as it is only aimed at a global political level which we are all steak holders of, is this,  I hope it doesn't affect relations between country's. global politics should be able to rise above the quarrels of individual citizens and I truly hope this happens.

While it's not possible (this isn't Russia, after all) would it be the right thing for Obama to intervene just to put a lid on this controversy?

I don't think that its ever the right political call to put a lid on controversy.  this is only my opinion, but if I was in government, I would encourage issues, policies, laws and decisions to be questioned and debated in open forum.  better than an attitude of 'trust us, just don't ask questions'

While the arrest itself is taken as an insult to India, the prosecutor made things worse by seeing to it that the nanny's Indian family was flown to the US. He says he did this to insulate the nanny and her family from influence and reprisals in India, and to make sure the nanny felt safe to testify without fear of reprisals. Khobragade's father, it is alleged, made pretty severe threats to the family, ranging from ruining their reputation to abduction.

Nice writeup. A few wrinkles. Many in India look to how the U.S. handled the Raymond Davis CIA shooting in Lahore when the State Department claimed he was with the consular staff and Obama came out and said he should have full diplomatic immunity. Given that two people were shot dead in that case and a third run over and killed by a car, yet Raymond Davis ended up never facing charges, people outside the United States wonder why a Indian consular officer was arrested and strip searched for allegedly underpaying her maid rather than handle this quietly.

I'm not saying India is right, but I am saying I understand why a country like India would feel its status is being disrespected. They also question why no action was taken against the many, many Russian diplomats and consular staff and family members involved in systematic medicare fraud while India's representative is arrested, strip searched, and splashed on the front page.

Some point to the fact that the American prosecutor claims that Devyani "promised" to pay her maid $4,500 dollars a month when that was actually the amount Devyani makes per month and that Devyani didn't actually file the at-issue visa documents, but Richards filed them . Remembering that there is no way to tell the truth of the allegations, some point to the fact that the 30,000 Rupe side contract dealt with the amount to be deposited in India with the Richard's family bank account each month, but was not the total amount.

And I know India is looking to the fact that this "mid-level consular official" was also an accredited advisor to the UN on December 12, 2013, which would mean that she had full diplomatic immunity and not just consular diplomatic immunity (note I am not talking about her subsequent permanent transfer to the UN, but rather her status as of August 26, 2013, through December 31, 2013). 

Oh, and of course, the fact that the US smuggled the Richards family out of India using diplomatic tickets, etc.

While I'm not taking a position on whether Devyani did anything improper, I am saying that this is a huge deal in India, I understand why India is upset, and the US has just spent a lot of its good will on this issue. I hope the State Department has answers for India's questions. American diplomats are going to have a much harder time in the future as a result of this.

Nice writeup. A few wrinkles. Many in India look to how the U.S. handled the Raymond Davis CIA shooting in Lahore when the State Department claimed he was with the consular staff and Obama came out and said he should have full diplomatic immunity. Given that two people were shot dead in that case and a third run over and killed by a car, yet Raymond Davis ended up never facing charges, people outside the United States wonder why a Indian consular officer was arrested and strip searched for allegedly underpaying her maid rather than handle this quietly.

People outside the US don't "get" our separation of powers. Even a country like India which actually has separation of powers. In the Raymond Davis case, Obama had the power to act. He has no power to interfere in the Khobrabade case. I run into this a lot. Foreigners don't seem to "get" that we have different jurisdictions and levels of government. If some cop somewhere beats up a Brazilian, Brazilians will start talking about "American police" based on that sample and they will also imagine that it's some sort of policy coming down from Washington.

I'm not saying India is right, but I am saying I understand why a country like India would feel its status is being disrespected. They also question why no action was taken against the many, many Russian diplomats and consular staff and family members involved in systematic medicare fraud while India's representative is arrested, strip searched, and splashed on the front page.

Back to the separation of powers again. A Federal prosecutor has a fairly free hand. There's nothing new about inconsistency. If I get charged with tax evasion, can I count on getting a Willie Nelson deal? I don't think I can.

Some point to the fact that the American prosecutor claims that Devyani "promised" to pay her maid $4,500 dollars a month when that was actually the amount Devyani makes per month and that Devyani didn't actually file the at-issue visa documents, but Richards filed them . Remembering that there is no way to tell the truth of the allegations, some point to the fact that the 30,000 Rupe side contract dealt with the amount to be deposited in India with the Richard's family bank account each month, but was not the total amount.

As I said in the original post, Khobragade isn't destitute. She is part owner of a couple apartment blocks and comes from a powerful and wealthy family. Her position here could almost certainly have been parlayed into better paying positions down the line. Deals where wages are not paid directly in cash are always suspect. For the payment to have the appearance of being voluntary, it should be the nanny (Sangeeta Richards) sending money home. Noncash payments are especially frowned upon in the US due to a history of companies hiring desperate workers to work in remote locations and paying them not with cash but with company credits only redeemable in company stores or for the rental of company dwellings, thus turning the employees into customers and profit centers for their employers.

And I know India is looking to the fact that this "mid-level consular official" was also an accredited advisor to the UN on December 12, 2013, which would mean that she had full diplomatic immunity and not just consular diplomatic immunity (note I am not talking about her subsequent permanent transfer to the UN, but rather her status as of August 26, 2013, through December 31, 2013).

If she has full immunity, she can still be expelled to India, where the real estate deal she is party too is a scandal. She may end up being in as much trouble in India as she may be here. Even if expelled, she can still be arraigned in absentia with all of the charges against the laid out but with no rebuttal. Kind of a mixed blessing.

Oh, and of course, the fact that the US smuggled the Richards family out of India using diplomatic tickets, etc.

While I'm not taking a position on whether Devyani did anything improper, I am saying that this is a huge deal in India, I understand why India is upset, and the US has just spent a lot of its good will on this issue. I hope the State Department has answers for India's questions. American diplomats are going to have a much harder time in the future as a result of this.

Part of the real problem here has to do with India's inferiority complex which goes back to being invaded, conquered, and subjugated by one imperial power after another. Ironically, the modern state of India probably wouldn't exist without the conquest by Great Britain which gave India what is, in effect, its national language: English. Indian commentators speculate whether the US really feels it needs India anymore. Of course we do. China can't be our ally, and no other country is big and strong enough to take care of itself in the area rather than being a country we need to protect.

They should pay back wages, at the local prevailing wage for the position, and promise never to do this again. Of course an additional three years probation could begin to cover it.

 

Unfortunately, the prosecutor is taking a hard line and doesn't seem to be open to other options. One reason might be that his office let foreign legations know recently that, unless they were covered by full diplomatic immunity, violations of American labor laws would be taken seriously. If Khobragade thought he was kidding, she certainly now knows otherwise. 

1. Isn't India gearing up for elections? It seems politicians may be using the story to gin up votes.

2. Why would we put a forgein government's employee in with the general prison population, necessitating the search in the first place? Did no one second guess giving a powerful Indian woman a strip search? Did no one worry about damaging relations between the two countries? Yes, we should arrest and convict criminals, but in certain instances, we have to consider the wider implications of creating a culture clash. I believe there was a better way to process her arrest. Justice should be served in a way that doesn't pit the two cultures against eachother.

1. If it's the case that they are gearing up for elections, they'll want to be looking tough.

2. Oh, wow. You, too, are falling into the foreigner's assumption that everything that happens in the US comes down from the top, This is the prosecutor's show. He is independent of the rest of the government and interfering with his investigation is actually illegal. It might be possible for the President to ask for an investigation, but once one is under way, he has to keep hands off, and I'm pretty sure Obama and Kerry would have wanted this handled quietly. .

The fact remains that a diplomat of a foreign nation ( An important ally in a very hostile region) has been arrested and her immunity status was not considered / or properly analyzed before her arrest. If she indeed had full diplomatic immunity at the time of her arrest then I believe this is a grave blunder. This could certainly influence the treatment of US diplomats in India and elsewhere. Because every country is monitoring this issue closely.

US diplomats in India have already felt the heat. Their privileges have been withdrawn and India is looking for possible violations of laws by US diplomats and their families. This could well have an impact on long term relationship between India and the US.

US diplomats in India so far had VIP treatment in India. I believe this is due to the fact India had considered US to be its new friend. The same time Indian diplomats in the US were getting way less privileges than what India had been offering the US. I believe it was a show of good will.

Regardless of the nature of the diplomat's crime, regardless of who she is as a person, the US authorities have failed to see or were unwilling to see her as a representative of India. The US authorities never even bothered to inform the Indian embassy (which is how usually an arrest of a diplomat is dealt with, regardless of their immunity status) about her arrest. This is seen as an insult to India, not only the fact that she was arrested but also the fact the Indian embassy was never informed. Indians and I believe people from elsewhere see this as American arrogance and / or US double standards.

 

 

 

 

 

I agree with a lot of what you say, but you, like so many, continue to view this incident as though it came right out of the White House and/or has a White House solution.

Federal prosecutors don't take their orders from President Obama and President Obama can't really intervene in a Federal prosecution. He doesn't have the autocratic power of a Vladimir Putin.

I understand that you have similar laws in India (I'm assuming you are Indian), so it's puzzling that you persist in describing this incident as somehow a US government thing (by which you seem to mean the Obama administration and/or reflects an official top-level attitude toward India),.

About all Obama and Secretary Kerry can do is apologize. Doing a tit for tat with American diplomats and consular officials will just make a bad situation worse, since there isn't much anyone can do about the prosecution.

Now, I recently  read this article. You might want to do so as well. I give you the first two paragraphs. Your comments appreciated:

The Great Indian Middle Class, it appears, has a domestic worker problem. When in India, they display a predilection for starving, torturing, locking up domestic helps, and underpaying or withholding their wages. When abroad, they want the same privileges they enjoy at home. If the law of the alien land does not gel with these time-honoured Indian practices, then it is a matter of national prestige that they get away with them abroad just as they do at home. And anyone who dares to speak for the rights of the domestic worker is anti-national scum that should go back to the hole they came from.
This, admittedly, is a caricature of India’s position—both official and unofficial—in the diplomatic row involving the Devyani Khobragade case. But going by the national outrage that greeted the news of Khobragade’s arrest, one could be forgiven for concluding that employing a domestic worker is a fundamental human right for India’s middle classes. Fortunately, for the rest of the world—it isn’t. (full article here)
Women's rights groups and other human rights workers continue to ask, "Why is this all about Khobragade? Why no concern in India for her mistreatment of the nanny?"

RSS

Services we love!

We are in love with our Amazon

Book Store!

Gadget Nerd? Check out Giz Gad!

Advertise with ThinkAtheist.com

In need a of a professional web site? Check out the good folks at Clear Space Media

© 2014   Created by umar.

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service