|File photo of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade (Pic: Rediff.com)|
Sunday, January 12, 2014
Indian diplomat concerned about children in US
NEW DELHI (AA) - Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade, who flew from the United States to India on Friday and may never go to the US again, has expressed “apprehension and anguish” on Sunday over the future of her family including the two young daughters who remain in that country.
39-year old Khobragade, who was indicted in a US court and granted full diplomatic immunity on Thursday, told a national daily on Sunday that she doesn’t know whether she will be able to ever reunite with her American family.
“I wonder if I will be able to ever reunite with my family, my husband, my little kids. I miss them,” Khobragade told The Sunday Express.
Khobragade, at the centre of a diplomatic row between India and United States, was accused of visa fraud and underpayment to her maid Sangeeta Richard she brought from India.
Khobragade said her family was one of the biggest worries on her mind currently.
“What if my children choose to study and work in the US? What if I can never return to the US, which I cannot now… Does it mean we will never be able to live together as a family again?,” she said.
The US State Department has communicated to the Indian side that Khobragade’s name would be “placed in visa and immigration lookout systems to prevent routine issuance of any future visa” making it impossible for the diplomat to go to the United States even to meet her American family. The US also said that an arrest warrant may be issued against the diplomat.
Khobragade is married to a well-known American academic and has two daughters aged seven and four in New York.
“My little kids, who have never been separated from me, are too young to realise that their mother will not return home any time soon. (That) in fact she would never return to that same house again,” Khobragade said.
Khobragade said it feels good to be among the people who support you but the legal battle remains in the US.
“I have come to India but my stand still needs to be vindicated. And of course, I have been separated from my family, and I am under immense stress for my children,” she said.
Khobragade’s American lawyer Daniel Arshack has moved an application in a federal court seeking dismissal of the visa fraud case against her.
Khobragade said she was “honest” and come out “clean”.
“I know I am honest, and I will come out clean. But we do not know how much time it will take and for how long my family will have to suffer due to this,” she said.
In a “retaliatory” measure, India on Friday asked the US Embassy in Delhi to withdraw an officer of rank similar to that of Devyani Khobragade, India’s deputy consul general in New York, who was asked to leave the US on Thursday after being indicted in a US court.
On Friday, a senior Indian official told Anadolu Agency on the condition of anonymity that the role of a particular US official was “questionable” in a month long diplomatic slugfest between India and US, resulting in the indictment and subsequent expulsion of Khobragade.
It is widely believed that the US official in Delhi Embassy may have played an active role in granting expedited visas to the husband and two children of the maid Sangeeta Richard, allowing the family to fly to the US just two days before the arrest of the diplomat.
In December, media reports hinted that contacts within the US diplomatic community would have come into play as Richard’s in-laws reportedly work for the American embassy in New Delhi.
The US approved Khobragade’s accreditation at India’s Permanent Mission at the United Nations on Wednesday helping the indicted diplomat to fly back to India.
On December 18, India transferred Khobragade to India’s Permanent Mission in New York hoping that the diplomat would receive full immunity.
India pressed for criminal charges against Khobragade to be dropped, taking a slew of “retaliatory” measures against the US Embassy and consular officials.
On January 8, India asked the US Embassy in Delhi to stop commercial activities by January 16 including its restaurant, bar, bowling alley, beauty parlour, gym, tennis court, swimming pool etc. on the grounds that the presence of all those facilities violated the Vienna Convention.
On January 7, Khobragade’s father Uttam Khobragade, a retired Indian diplomat, protested outside the US Consulate in Mumbai demanding that the charges against his daughter were false and should be waived.
On December 17, India withdrew a host of privileges accorded to all US Consular officials in India including the withdrawal of airport passes, cancellation of import duty waivers on food and liquor etc. Security barricades outside the US Embassy in Delhi were also removed in retaliation to the arrest of the diplomat.
Khobragade, India’s deputy consul general in New York, was arrested by the police in New York Police on the morning of December 12 while she was dropping off her young daughters to school. She was publicly handcuffed, allegedly strip-searched and placed in a prison cell. She was released on bail of $250,000 in the evening.
Khobragade was allegedly paying Richard $3.11 per hour instead of the promised mandatory US wage of $9.75.
However, Indian officials portray a more complicated legal picture, saying that Richard has been absconding since June this year as a Delhi high court had issued an interim injunction in September restraining her from instituting any action or proceedings against Khobragade outside India, according to the terms and conditions of her employment.
The Indian Embassy in Washington had requested the US government to locate Richard, Khobragade's maid, and facilitate the implementation of an arrest warrant, issued by the Metropolitan Magistrate of the South District Court in New Delhi.