India expels US official in retaliation for Washington’s expulsion of diplomat

The father and a younger sister of Devyani Khobragade, the indicted diplomat accused of exploiting her housekeeper in New York, are surrounded by media at an airport in Delhi, India. Ms Khobragade has been transferred to a post in India Photograph: Kuni Takahashi/New York Times

The father and a younger sister of Devyani Khobragade, the indicted diplomat accused of exploiting her housekeeper in New York, are surrounded by media at an airport in Delhi, India. Ms Khobragade has been transferred to a post in India Photograph: Kuni Takahashi/New York Times

Sat, Jan 11, 2014, 01:02

India has ordered an official at the US embassy to leave New Delhi in tit-for-tat expulsions in the diplomatic row between the countries after an Indian diplomat was sent home from the US.

India asked the US to withdraw the official as Devyani Khobragade (39), the Indian diplomat charged with falsifying visa documents and lying about underpaying her housekeeper, arrived home after being allowed to leave the US in a political deal aimed at easing tensions in US-India relations.

The US official asked to leave India is of an equal rank to Ms Khobragade. This is only the second time a US diplomat has been expelled from India.A spokeswoman for the US State Department confirmed that a US official in New Delhi will be returning to the US at the request of the Indian government.

She said that the US deeply regrets that the Indian government felt it necessary to expel the official, describing the relations between the two countries as “challenging”.

Ms Khobragade, India’s deputy consul general at the United Nations in New York, was indicted by a federal jury on Thursday but will not be arraigned after the US acknowledged her diplomatic immunity. The US had asked the Indian government to waive her diplomatic immunity to allow the prosecution of the case but when it refused, the Indian diplomat was asked to leave the US.

She was allowed to leave India late that night. Her arrest by State Department agents on December 12th outside her children’s school in Manhattan and her subsequent strip-search while being detained caused a furore in India and erupted a diplomatic spat between the two countries.

“She is pleased to be returning to her country,” her attorney Daniel Arshank said on Thursday. “Her head is held high.”

Prosecutors, led by Indian-born US attorney in Manhattan Preet Bharara, claim Ms Khobragade paid Sangeeta Richard, a domestic worker she brought to the United States from India, as little as $3.31 (€2.41) an hour, despite pledging to pay her the $9.50 an hour minimum wage on her visa application.

In new details disclosed in the indictment against her, Ms Khobragade and others are alleged to have attempted to “silence and intimidate the victim and her family and lie to Indian authorities and courts”.

Mr Bharara has told the court that the charges will remain outstanding against Ms Khobragade, who claims that the charges against her are false and baseless.