The dramatic diplomatic conflict over the arrest of Indian deputy consul general Devyani Khobragade this week in New York continues to simmer on both sides, with India now hoping that the US State Department will grant full immunity before charges are officially filed in a few weeks. The allegation—visa fraud on behalf of Khobragade's underpaid maid—has created an emotional storm by the Indian media, even triggering a protest outside the US Embassy in Delhi.
39 year old Khobragade was strip searched following “standard arrestee intake procedures,” according to the US Marshals Service, which basically means she was treated like any ordinary individual would have experienced in her position. The problem is, a person in her role probably should not be going through those exact same procedures and could have been accorded persona non grata status instead of prosecution.
Delhi responded this week by snubbing a visiting US delegation as well as revoking privileges (such as alcohol imports and VIP airport status) for US diplomats in India, but perhaps the most disturbing retaliatory action was the removal of the security barriers in front of the US embassy in Delhi.
The barriers were installed to prevent vehicles from approaching the building at high speeds and specifically targeted suicide bombers (interestingly the embassy complex was designed by architect Edward D. Stone during the 1950s, who also designed the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC).
To revoke certain privileges from American diplomats—and even to snub a preexisting meeting with a US delegation—is something that one could easily expect in the world of diplomacy, where a tit-for-tat context seems to always come into play. But to remove security barriers is, in the words of former Assistant Secretary of State PJ Crowley, “excessive and irresponsible.” Purposefully putting innocent lives in harm’s way is a cringingly shortsighted plan that invites terrorists to entertain the idea of an attack that would likely kill not only Americans but innocent Indian bystanders as well.
Recall the Mumbai terrorist attacks of 2008: India is still learning how to effectively deal with such security threats that weren’t “encouraged,” so to speak, by their government—therefore welcoming future attacks by intentionally lowering current security is clearly not a scenario they should be seeking.
Today Delhi slightly toned down their stance by stating their preference of “behind the scenes” diplomacy moving forward.
On a slightly different angle: a great piece on why having a servant is not a right.