In response to Devyani Khobragade’s ouster from the US, Govt of India (GOI) declared a counselor level officer in the US Embassy in Delhi persona non grata, and gave this officer 48 hours to be out of the country. On the surface this appears a strictly reciprocal gesture — the principle of reciprocity being recently discovered by the MEA only after one of its own was caught by the US Govt. in the legal wage trap. But was this strict reciprocity? It was not.
A truly reciprocal move would have been to legally charge this Counselor accused by GOI of aiding and abetting the illegal exfiltration of the Indian maid servant Sangeeta Richard’s family from India after a case had been registered in the Indian Courts against Sangeeta, making the US Counselor an accomplice in the breaking of Indian laws. Khobragade was charged in New York courts, the said Counselor should have been hauled up and a legal case of abetment of crime should have been registered against the American diplomat, and the US Embassy asked to waive immunity against her prosecution, which wouldn’t have been acceded to. That would have made for absolute equality of situation. But now an Indian diplomat has a legal case hanging on her, preventing her return to the United States, the American has no such legal barrier to surmount.
The difference and the complication is, of course, that while the American diplomat would happily never come to India again, Khobragade, has a US-born husband and kids to worry about. It’ll mean that once she leaves service, she’ll have to fight her own private battle with the US legal system or, alternatively, have her husband and children relocate to India.
The other interesting aspect of this entire affair is Devyani’s father — a provincial civil service officer, elevated to the Indian Administrative Service, whose career record is pockmarked by vigilance and corruption cases, including the Adarsh Housing Society scam. He has exploited to the fullest his position, which is evident. How else did his daughter enjoy special treatment, get foreign language of her choice — German, when a person senior to her in her batch was denied such latitude, filed a case, and was fired from the IFS? What isn’t clear is whether Devyani is a “22 and half-percenter” — an SC/ST quota-entry officer, which category is looked down upon by the merit listers. There’s a lot of sensitivity on this issue on both these issues. Why else would Khobragade pater bring up the “casteist charge”against media persons when they brought up the Adarsh scam angle?