Thursday, January 23, 2014

India’s foreign minister meets US Secretary of State John Kerry

India's Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid with US Secretary of State John Kerry (Pic: MEA)
NEW DELHI (AA) - India’s foreign minister Salman Khurshid on Wednesday met US Secretary of State John Kerry on the sidelines of the Geneva II peace conference to discuss a wide range of bilateral issues, including the arrest of an Indian diplomat in New York in December 2013.
This was the first meeting between the two after a month long diplomatic row between India and the US over the arrest of Devyani Khobragade, India’s deputy consul general, on charges of visa fraud and underpayment to her maid Sangeeta Richard.
In a statement, India’s foreign ministry said that Kerry and Khurshid reviewed recent developments in Indian-US relations and agreed that the relationship between the two countries was important.
Both Khurshid and Kerry briefly discussed “institutional arrangements” relating to the privileges and immunities of diplomats, a pending energy dialogue, and the visit of the commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration.
“Both sides looked forward to the early realization of a mutually-agreed calendar of bilateral exchanges, including visits of US Energy Secretary Moniz for the India-US Energy Dialogue and the visit of the Commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration, Dr. Margaret Hamburg”, the statement said.
The Energy Dialogue, scheduled for early January, was cancelled after the diplomatic row between the two countries took an unexpected turn with India taking a slew of “reciprocal” measures.
They also talked about the “ongoing” defense cooperation between India and the US. The two sides agreed to “remain in contact” to follow up on the progress of key strategic issues. They also discussed the Khobragade episode and recognized the need to put into place institutional arrangements to look at all outstanding issues relating to the privileges and immunities of diplomats of both countries so that such “issues could be resolved in a timely manner”.
Khurshid also underlined India’s concern over “trafficking visas” issued to Indian nationals by the US Embassy in the country.
Richard’s family was granted expedited visas by the US Embassy in New Delhi on December 10, two days before the arrest of Khobragade allowing the family to fly to the US.
Khobragade 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 with drug addicts. She was released on bail of $250,000 in the evening.
Indicted in a US court, Khogragade moved to India on January 10 after being granted full diplomatic immunity. 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 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.
Anadolu Agency, January 22, 2014

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