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A Diplomatic Debacle

Parthiv N. Parekh Email Parthiv N. Parekh
January 2014
A Diplomatic Debacle

Did you hear of the Indian diplomat who got arrested for…

Of course you did! Of the many shocking facets surrounding the arrest of India’s Deputy Consul-General Devyani Khobragade in New York, on charges of visa fraud and labor law violations, the most remarkable one has been the sheer magnitude of response it has evoked, especially in India. It’s hogging headlines everywhere—in broadcast, print, electronic and social media.

Who would have thought that the diplomatic ties between the U.S. and India could suffer a major setback, not by issues surrounding nuclear disarmament or Indo-Pak squabbles, but by the arrest of a relatively low ranking consular officer?

It’s hard to imagine that so many issues have cropped up surrounding this incident. Here’s a small list of questions that have been raised in various areas:

Those who have followed this issue know that many more questions have been raised. Is it any wonder that opinions and accusations are flying around like a tornado? In the midst of this storm it may be good to look at what appear to be the facts of the case:

As one can see, the facts point to the murky nature of the whole deal. There doesn't seem to be a singular villain here. Blame, to some degree or other, can be hung on the various individuals and agencies involved.

And yet, the grossly overblown outcries from Indian politicians, press, and pundits seem to make the U.S. government the sole villain here.They seem to have needlessly hitched national pride onto the incident. While taking nothing away from Khobragade as an individual, it seems to be lost on these protesters that she was a deputy consular officer, not a high-profile consul general or ambassador who could legitimately be seen as the face of India. Add to it the fact that there was indeed a legal basis for proceedings against her, and it makes this gang of Indian pundits and politicians look like a lynch mob ready to roast Uncle Sam in a fit of blind vengeance.

But the gold medal for shortsightedness, in my opinion, goes to the official Indian response to this sordid affair. How they took an individual issue, no matter how egregious, and escalated it to make it look far graver than, for example, territorial disputes with Pakistan or China, or even global warfare, is beyond belief. All because they felt our national pride was at stake? If national pride is so dear to us, shouldn't we be more concerned about the fundamentals that have a real sway on it? Fundamentals like building a functional infrastructure or eliminating corruption? Is it because we have failed in doing that that we are looking towards America to give or take it away from us?

I am not suggesting that nations must first perfect themselves to assert themselves in the global village. By all means, let’s find our spine, let’s assert ourselves. But let's not make asses of ourselves in doing that. Let's not reduce the world's largest democracy into a banana republic that removes security barriers protecting foreign diplomats in its juvenile spite. Taking such liberties with the security of those in our charge by staking the national pride on one freak incident is precisely the way to loose respect and credibility. All across the totem pole of the Indian government, officials seem to be trampling over each other to scold America and to paint Khobragade singularly as a victim, forgetting that none of this would be happening if not for her insistence on domestic help, affordable or not. 

Yashwant Sinha, a former foreign minister and presently leader of the BJP party, went so far as to say that India should arrest and prosecute U.S.diplomats in India who are openly gay, now that the Supreme Court of India has made sex between same sex partners illegal. First, despite one’s personal feelings about the natural phenomenon of homosexuality, we should be ashamed of such an archaic law, not be advertising it. We should certainly not be using it as a tragicomic threat of blackmail in a bid to salvage our national pride. 

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