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21 Dec, 2013

India hits back at U.S. over arrest of its diplomat, curbs privileges of U.S. embassy officials


Ministry of External Affairs, 20-December-2013 – Following is the text of the External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid’s intervention in Rajya Sabha on the discussion on the arrest of an Indian Diplomat in USA:

Sir, I rise with a very heavy heart. But, I also rise with a sense and confidence that this House has expressed the feelings that each one of us has in his heart. We cannot be divided on an issue of such importance to us as a nation, as people and as human beings. It is no longer about an individual. It is about our sense of ourselves as a nation and our presence in the world. I only urge the hon. Members to share with me my sense of responsibility in circumstances in which responding in a disproportionate matter is easy. Saying things that you might regret later is easy. But, to keep my vision directed entirely on the immediate concern — which is the dignity, safety and comfort of someone who, today, for us is not just a representative of India, but I sink think a part of her heart and a part of her family — is more important.

I have met the officer’s father who himself was a distinguished officer of the Indian Administrative Service. I saw a great fortitude, determination and a sense of rationality in him. I thanked him for it in very difficult circumstances the manner in which he stood by his daughter. And, I believe, that we too, from here, will stand not just by his daughter but our sense as a nation, as people and as human beings that what has happened is totally and entirely unacceptable.

I know the hon. Members used different words and one could search dictionary for the strongest possible word that would express our feelings of distress, disquiet and outrage. But, I do believe, this is time to go beyond words and to show some deeds. We have, immediately, reacted and taken some very specific steps about which I dare say there are some people who have said that we are overreacting and overreaching. But, I do believe, the general sense in the country and in this House is what we have done is appropriate. And, on the other, hon. Members have said that we must sustain steadily and get ourselves to the destination that we want to reach. I think, the most important and immediate concern is to ensure that no further indignity is inflicted upon the young officer. And, we are taking immediate steps to ensure, legally, whatever is possible to implement.

In terms of giving a strong, unambiguous, direct message to the USA whatever I believe we were supposed to do, we did immediately. We can cavil and disagree about the extent of meetings that might have happened who should have met and who should not have met. But, I only want to urge one simple thing. Whatever we do, we are doing in a bona fide manner, with honesty, sincerity and with the overall interest of the nation and the person concerned.

If we appear, outside this House, on television channels, to be divided even on this — even if the division is a very minor one — we will look like a weak nation. Today we speak in one voice on this and I urge you, request you and I plead with you let that voice be one single voice. I will not let you down. This Government will not let you down, no matter how overarch your emotions may be. But, please reflect, for a moment, that we will do what is absolutely important and necessary and I have the confidence to say that we will overcome and we will succeed. But, I do want to share with the House and, I think, it is important to share with the House to understand that we are notoverreacting simply because somebody has behaved in a manner that is adverse or hurtful to us. There is a history behind this.

And that history fortifies our position. It is not something that has happened out of the blue. It is not something in which the allegations may or may not be substantiated by the prosecution. It is not something in which the prosecution had the right to do something, and that is writ large in black and white. There is a history that this House must know. This is an issue which we would handle in due course in a larger manner. And I am glad that the Finance Minister is here; we have to consult the Finance Ministry on important changes that we want to make in the arrangements for people who go with our officials abroad and serve them as their employees. But that would come later.

There is also an issue of the Vienna Convention, the Convention that applies to our Diplomatic Missions. There is also a different Convention that applies to the Consulates. These are two separate Conventions. Be that as it may, whatever further negotiations are required, that would come only later.

Today, our paramount concern, interest and determination is to be able to intervene effectively and specifically to ensure that the dignity of our officer is absolutely preserved.

Sir, the tragedy is that this is not a story in which only two countries are involved; this is a story in which individuals from our country are involved. It is not something that is being done suo motu by the American agencies, bad as it might appear. There is participation of somebody who holds an Indian Passport, somebody who offered their services to work with our diplomatic officials and somebody who sought employment and went to the United States of America, and the conduct of those people is now writ large. And in whatever we say to the United States of America, we would have to keep in mind why this happened in this manner, irrespective of who instigated it, who accepted it, who was not careful about the motives and the reasons why it was being done.

Sir, it goes as way back as June and July of the year in which our Deputy Consul-General found that this person who was working with her had suddenly disappeared. We tried to register a complaint with the relevant agency which looks after the employment in the Mission. But we did not get the cooperation that we needed. We, then, reached out to that lady’s husband who was in India and that lady’s husband who was in India was unwilling to give us cooperation to help us find that lady and, then, be able to talk to her directly. Then, the Deputy Consul-General received a phone-call from a lawyer who refused to identify herself, who offered a settlement which included obviously some terms which would have arranged for a permanent residence for the employee in the United States of America and also for a huge compensation. It became clear at that point that this was a conspiracy by which some people had virtually trapped our official into a situation where she would have to do something illegal in order to help those people remain in the United States of America. It is not the illegality she is accused of; it is the illegality she refused to subject herself to that brought about this unfortunate situation upon her.

On the 1st of July, on the 5th of July, the Deputy Consul-General registered a complaint with the New York Police Department for a crime of aggravated harassment against her, and no action was taken by the New York Police Department on that complaint. Then, a complaint was filed in India. A complaint was filed in New Delhi against the lady who was working for her and her husband under Section 420. An FIR was registered in Delhi on the basis of the complaint that was made. That complaint, under Sections 420, 120, 403 and 408 of the IPC, essentially said that that lady and her husband – and I am not taking their names because they are not present here – had obtained an Official Passport and a US Visa with Government assistance with the intention of illegally immigrating to the United States of America. This is in the Fatehpur Beri Police Station and the FIR Number is 20130348.

Thereafter, we requested help from the U.S. Embassy in this matter. However, the U.S. Embassy could not or didn’t provide any feedback. Thereafter, it was the husband of that lady who then filed a report with NYPD for theft of cash, Blackberry phone, two SIM cards, a metro card and documents such as contracts signed, receipt books-cum-working hour log, etc., etc., on the 22nd of June, 2013. We had already attempted to get access to that person. We were willing to cooperate with the agencies in the USA, but that was not done. The FIR had been registered here. Also, the High Court issued an injunction against the husband and wife from doing anything in this matter or proceeding in this matter against the Consul General.

So, we had done everything that was possible. On 15th of July, they had filed a writ petition against the Government. But, that writ petition was withdrawn. Therefore, all possible things that we could have done were done; we ensured that there was compliance with the law. The anti-suit injunction was granted by the Delhi High Court on 20th September, 2013. A non-bailable arrest warrant was issued by the metropolitan magistrate of south Delhi in New Delhi against that lady concerned on 6th December, 2013. This was forwarded to the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi requesting them to instruct relevant authorities in the U.S. to arrest and repatriate that person to India through the Consulate in New York so that the due process of law, prosecution, could be done in India. No action was taken in this regard. Instead of actually paying heed to our legitimate arrest warrant issued from a court in India which was served on them through proper process, on the 12th December, 2013, the Deputy Consul General was arrested by the Diplomatic Security Service, who then, in turn, handed her over to the marshals of the New York Police. She is now on bail and, of course, trial and hearings have started. We summoned the U.S. Ambassador on the 13th December, 2013, to express shock at the manner in which the DCG had been humiliated by the U.S. authorities. The MEA spokesperson immediately made a statement. I took up this matter as the first item with the U.S. Congressional delegation. I do believe that the response that we received was positive, was indicative of some sensitivity and some sincerity in responding to what I had said although they were not directly involved.

We have written to all Departments of State Protocol, the U.S. Consulates located in Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad and Kolkata, that the Consular identity cards issued by the State Protocol may be withdrawn and reverted to the MEA Protocol for review and processing no later than 23rd December, 2013. All current airport passes made available to the U.S. Consulates may be turned in to the State Protocol latest by 19th December, 2013. The State Protocol has been requested to obtain details of Indian staff employed by the U.S. Consulates and its associated offices with this information being sent to the MEA by 23rd December, 2013. Likewise, details of Indian nationals employed by the U.S. officials serving in the U.S. Consulates or its associated offices in domestic service duties of any description, together with copies of contracts including of emoluments paid and bank accounts in which these emoluments are being transferred, as well as the PAN in each case. Going forward, we have also requested the State Protocol to take no further action on applications for various clearances, approvals relating to issue of identity cards, clearances of personal effects, sales, purchases of cars, exemption certificates for duty-free import of liquor, food, etc. I don’t think this has ever been done in this country in the past.