For all its democratic traditions, the United States has demonstrated in no uncertain terms that when it comes to guile and furtiveness it is no better than China in letting down friends to achieve its own mean ends.
I am talking about Uncle Sam’s cunning and disgusting behaviour as evidenced in the shabby manner in which in which it dealt with an alleged visa fraud issue involving senior Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade.
The BJP is, therefore, right in saying that Devyani Khobragade’s return to New Delhi after a month-long standoff with the U.S. is a defeat for India.
While External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid may view the diplomat’s safe return as a victory, there has been no apology from the U.S. as India had been demanding from day 1. The U.S. has even held out the threat that should Devyani return to the U.S. without immunity she would be arrested and taken to task.
Here are some reasons that should fill the U.S. with shame:
- The U.S. acted in bad faith: The surreptitious evacuation of the husband and two children of Sangeeta Richards, the domestic servant of Devyani in New York, on Trafficking visas from India. This is action unbecoming of a democratic superpower!
- Devyani was arrested in the U.S. immediately after this evacuation, going to establish the stealthy nature of American action.
- If there was a case of visa fraud against Devyani, the U.S. should have been straightforward with her and India, sounded an early warning and taken action that was proportionate with the crime.
- Instead, there are indications that it acted on the sly, conspiring with the family of Sangeeta, who is from Kerala and who was flown to New York not on a general passport but one that tied her to the Indian government as an employee. a diplomatic one at India’s cost to be employed at the home of its diplomat.
- Sangeeta’s in-laws are reported to have been employees of the U.S. embassy in Delhi.
- Anyone with some common sense can easily understand from this how the U.S. acted in bad faith with a country that it considered a close friend.
- As Khurshid has rightly pointed out, “the U.S. should have warned senior officials visiting Washington a day before Khobragade’s arrest in December.”
US Double Standard: It is not as if the U.S. has been a “holy cow” (the expression that its diplomat in New Delhi who was expelled by India and his ilk appear to have used to deride the country) all through. They have violated local laws in many instances and got away with it, as this report shows.
In my opinion, India should have vehemently contested the behind-the-back evacuation of the Richards and demanded their deportation back to the country. It can still do so!
India appeared to be only keen on saving Devyani without being perturbed by the violation of its sovereignty by the U.S. as seen through the outrageous evacuation.
No Need to Mend Ties with U.S.
Still, Khurshid appears to focus on efforts to limit the damage caused by the Devyani saga to India-US relationship.
I do not see any sensible reason for India to try to mend its relationship with the U.S. This is particularly so as Uncle Sam is all too keen to align itself with Devyani’s domestic servant Sangeeta Richard.
In fact, what Devyani is reported to have told an official of the State Department who came to the airport to see her off neatly summarises what kind of people Washington loves: ‘You have lost a good friend. In return, you have got a maid and a drunken driver. They are in, and I am out.”
I assume the “good friend” she was referring to was India. Her husband, incidentally, is an American Indian who is a professor there and a wine connoisseur.
Traitors, duds and software programmers are the ones Uncle Sam hopes to get from India. It is no secret that Sangeeta Richard conspired with the U.S. to embarrass India.
- The U.S. is not even a help with India’s counter-terrorism efforts. If it were, it will have sent David Headley, the American involved with the Mumbai explosions, to India to face charges in the country. Indian pleas, made without the vehemence seen in the Devyani case, have gone unheeded.
- Also, American businesses have more commercial interests in India than the other way round.
- The likes of Sonia Gandhi may perhaps periodically like to go to the U.S. for some medical treatment.
- Since Indians love the U.S. so much they may like to go there for higher education that will be an opportunity for them to stay put there and spit venom on their motherland as the NRIs and American Indians generally do.
- They can continue to do so even if Indo-American ties are normal and not friendly. In any case, our so-called “friendly” ties did not stop them from being hostile to India in this case and doing things (evacuation of the Richards) without taking the country into confidence.
- Moreover, a report in The Times of India shows how the diplomat who colluded with the Richards in Delhi showed the ugly, American side all through his stay in the country.
At the same time, Devyani’s sob story regarding how she misses her young children that the India media picked up was not worthy of publication. Her children are only 4 years and 7 years old and she could have easily brought them back with her. She deserves no sympathy to her on this.
Getting stabbed in the back is not a new experience for India having been at the vile receiving end many times in its independent history.
- China did it first in 1962 when it invaded India even as Zhou Enlai and Jawaharlal Nehru were singing the Hindi-Chini bhai-bhai (India and China are brothers) tune. Nehru consistently adopted a pro-China policy, trusting the communist country too much and even antagonising Japan.
- China was a small player then but with expansionist designs that Nehru did not pay much attention to. The Tibet factor pulled the two countries apart but history is clear that China backstabbed India even when the leaders were talking peace. Nehru was so shaken by the loss in the 1962 war that he died a broken-hearted man in 1964.
- It took another 25 years before India got fooled big time by another neighbour, Sri Lanka. In 1987, then Sri Lankan President Jayewardene reached a pact with then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi for an initiative that was meant to be a peace-keeping exercise. But what the Indian Peace-Keeping Force (IPKF) got into in Sri Lanka was a war with the Tamil terror outfit, LTTE.
- By the time, the IPKF left Sri Lanka in 1990 they had suffered serious casualties in the fight. A peace mission had become a war and India had been trapped into fighting the LTTE on behalf of Sri Lanka. This led to the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in 1991.
The Devyani saga is one of the rare occasions showing India taking tough decisions and standing up to the might of the U.S. I wish India continues to show the same toughness and does not retract on any of its actions so far on the issue until an acceptable resolution is found.
G Joslin Vethakumar