India and U.S. in diplomatic stand off – How one man’s political ambitions have triggered an unnecessary crisis

“This is the year (2014) that Indian and U.S. interests are supposed to converge, considering the vacuum left behind after America’s defeat in Afghanistan that has left the Taliban and al-Qaida greatly strengthened. But all that is now in jeopardy. An unprecedented standoff has been the result: India cannot, and will not back down; America seems unable to fathom an undaunted and assertive India; and as for Obama-appointee Preetinder Singh Bharara? Well, “Pete” has a bright political future.”

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Tarek Fatah
The Toronto Sun

Kamal Nath“The U.S. is playing games with India. But America must understand that the world has changed, times have changed and India has changed.”

Those were tough words from India’s Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath, but they fell on deaf ears in Washington.

At issue is the case of India’s deputy consul general in New York, Devyani Khobragade, who was arrested and handcuffed by U.S. marshals as she dropped off her daughter at school on the morning of Dec. 12.

Devyani_KhobragadeLater, the 39-year old career diplomat was locked up, stripped naked and subjected to a search of her body cavities in what would appear to be a violation of the Vienna Convention that governs diplomats representing their countries in foreign lands. (U.S. authorities say her body cavities were visually inspected, but not searched).

Khobragade was charged with committing “visa fraud” to employ an Indian maid. Both Khobragade and the Indian government have angrily denied the allegations.

New Delhi has demanded an apology while the United States has said “no” and expressed surprise at India’s outrage.

The man behind the arrest of the Indian diplomat is Indian-born Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preetinder Singh Bharara, (who prefers to be addressed as “Preet” or “Pete”).

preetBharara issued an official press release defending the arrest, slamming his critics and announcing his office’s organized crime unit was handling the case against the Indian diplomat. While not explaining why the arrest had to take place outside Khobragade’s daughter’s school, Bharara acknowledged she was stripped naked and searched.

“It is true that she was fully searched by a female Deputy Marshal — in a private setting — when she was brought into the U.S. Marshals’ custody,” he said.

He added, “this is standard practice for every defendant, rich or poor, American or not, in order to make sure that no prisoner keeps anything on his person that could harm anyone, including himself.”

Well, perhaps not always.

Remember the Saudi princess who was holding five maids captive in Irvine, California in July 2013? She was arrested at her home, not on the street, and if there was a strip search, there were no reports of it.

What about the 49 Russian diplomats charged by Bharara with defrauding the U.S. government health care program of $1.5 million? Not one was arrested and most are now back in Russia or out of the country.

Khobragrade could have been asked to leave the United States, or, if arrested, could have been picked up at her home.

This isn’t the first time the Americans have publicly humiliated an Indian official.

In 2009, Continental Airlines’ staff frisked India’s former president A. P. J. Abdul Kalam. In 2011, the 80-year-old scientist had to endure another brush with U.S. security officials after he had boarded a flight at JFK to New Delhi.

Vacuum

This is the year (2014) that Indian and U.S. interests are supposed to converge, considering the vacuum left behind after America’s defeat in Afghanistan that has left the Taliban and al-Qaida greatly strengthened.

But all that is now in jeopardy.

An unprecedented standoff has been the result: India cannot, and will not back down; America seems unable to fathom an undaunted and assertive India; and as for Obama-appointee Preetinder Singh Bharara? Well, “Pete” has a bright political future.

2 comments for “India and U.S. in diplomatic stand off – How one man’s political ambitions have triggered an unnecessary crisis

  1. Broadwit
    January 1, 2014 at 11:53 AM

    A good column by Tarek Fatah. America is certainly not looking good by its actions and words. Preet the pretender to the US throne is a publicity hound, IMHO. He should be restrained now!

  2. AT
    January 28, 2014 at 2:12 AM

    Peetinder Singh Bharara is perfect case of MATA syndrome i.e. More American than American. He can go to any extent to achieve his political ambitions.

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