Author Topic: India Takes Aim at Privileges Held by U.S. Diplomats  (Read 221 times)

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India Takes Aim at Privileges Held by U.S. Diplomats
« on: January 08, 2014, 04:26:24 AM »
Via the NYT:

NEW DELHI — India took aim Wednesday at the privileges enjoyed by American diplomats in New Delhi, warning that the U.S. must stop all "commercial activities" at a popular embassy club that includes a bar, a bowling alley and other amenities. New Delhi also warned that embassy cars will not be immune to traffic violations.

The move was the latest fallout from a diplomatic row between India and the United States stemming from the arrest and strip search last month of Devyani Khobragade, an Indian diplomat in New York City. Khobragade, 39, has pleaded not guilty to fraud charges alleging she paid her Indian-born maid far less than the U.S. minimum wage and lied about it on a visa application.

The Press Trust of India news agency reported the Indian government's demands Wednesday, saying the U.S. has been asked to "discontinue commercial activities" from its embassy premises by Jan. 16. That includes a club that houses a restaurant and bar, bowling alley, swimming pool, sports field, hair salon and gym.

Foreign Ministry spokesman E. Vishnu Vardhan Reddy confirmed the PTI report and said the government was waiting for a response from the United States. Asked if India would shut down the club if the U.S. doesn't comply, he said: "It all depends on what the U.S. embassy does next. Embassies anywhere in the world cannot engage in commercial activities."

India says the fact that non-diplomats can join the club violates diplomatic laws. U.S. embassy officials did not immediately reply to calls for comment.

Khobragade was arrested Dec. 13 and was strip-searched in custody, as is common practice according to the U.S. Marshals. But the case has caused an outcry in India, where the idea of an educated, middle class woman facing a strip search is seen as outrageous and heavy-handed.

The controversy has chilled relations between the United States and India, and New Delhi already has revoked privileges for U.S. diplomats in protest, including withdrawing import licenses that allowed the commissary at the U.S. Embassy to import alcohol and food.

Khobragade could face a maximum sentence of 10 years for visa fraud and five years for making a false declaration if convicted. She has said she has full diplomatic immunity. Federal officials dispute that, saying her immunity is limited to acts performed in the exercise of consular functions.

More at link.
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