India’s Reaction to Devyani Khobragade’s Arrest

The arrest and treatment of Devyani Khobragade, deputy consul general of the consulate general of India in New York City, has caused diplomatic tensions between the United States and India.

Romi Jain Updated HeadshotIn a tit-for-tat response to the United States’s “deplorable” treatment of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade, New Delhi has asked Washington to recall one of its diplomats. Khobragade, deputy consul-general in New York, was arrested in December 2013 on the charge of visa fraud for allegedly underpaying her babysitter, and was also strip-searched and “held with criminals,” “sparking an uproar” in India over America’s disregard of diplomatic immunity.

New Delhi’s reaction can be understood from four major perspectives.

First, its “reciprocal action” was immature and impulsive. It reflects its non-exploration of prudent options to convey its bruised sensitivities, especially in dealing with a “strategic partner.”

Second, the reaction indicates India’s reluctance to tolerate any move or response that exhibits America’s treatment of India as an unequal partner, especially when the two countries have elevated their relationship to strategic partnership around common national interests such as balancing China and preventing nuclear weapons proliferation.


Photo Credit: DNA India, January 11, 2014

Third, the government’s action could be aimed at appearing strong to the Indian electorate in view of the upcoming general elections.

Fourth, and importantly, the reaction smacks of elitism. By virtue of being a diplomat and thus an elite (irrespective of how she might have treated her maid), Khobragade represented the nation’s pride. But when Indian soldiers, guarding the nation’s border and honor, meet with extreme inhuman and barbaric treatment at the hands of its South Asian neighbor, the government shows amazing restraint and rather pusillanimity in its response.

Perhaps sacrifice, death and martyrdom are the natural domains of a soldier, a non-elitist Indian, who is undeserving of attention.

On its part, the US must have been discreet in handling the issue involving diplomatic immunity. Ultimately, both countries are expected to resolve it in a mutually dignified manner to prevent the temporary setback from affecting their strategic ties.

READ  The Strategic Triangle: US-China-Taiwan Relations

Romi Jain is a published poet, novelist, and Vice President of the Indian Journal of Asian Affairs. She did her MBA from San Francisco, California, and has worked as a marketing professional with a Silicon Valley-based company. Her creative works include: The Storm Within (2008; 2011), Poetry! You Resurrect Me (2011) and Voices of Rocks in the Dusk (2012). Her poems have appeared in international anthologies and in literary journals such as Off the Coast; Touch: The Journal of Healing; The Journal of Poetry Society; Aquill Relle Magazine; Munyori Literary Journal; and The Tower Journal. Read other articles by Romi.