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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 16th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

 What India does in its own country is India’s business, and ethical people all over the world are entitled to express an opinion about how India handles its social system – BUT when India comes to an outside country – they must submit to the laws of that country where they are mere guests. When they go to a State where there is even more discrimination then in their home country – the Indians ought then to behave among themselves at a minimum according to their own mores – this we include for the sake of Indian homes in Arab States.

Above ought to be rock substance for a US paper of the New York Times stature. Any pussifooting around on this just reminds us of worse days for this paper – the days of its refusal to look at the Holocaust for fear of  alienating some perceived American interests.

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India-America Relations on Edge.

The Indian diplomat charged with visa fraud and mistreating her domestic worker is back in Mumbai, and tensions between India and the United States have eased. But her case and the issues it raised are not resolved, and the damage to India-America relations is unlikely to dissipate soon. This unfortunate episode is a reminder that while both nations are democracies, neither can avoid the hard work necessary to make the relationship work.

The envoy, Devyani Khobragade, was arrested last month on a criminal complaint charging that she had paid her maid, Sangeeta Richard, $1.42 an hour or less despite promising on her visa application to pay the minimum wage of $9.75 an hour. Prosecutors said that Ms. Richard was not only underpaid but overworked. Last Thursday, a federal grand jury indicted Ms. Khobragade on similar charges and accused her of trying to intimidate the victim.

India, its passions fanned by election-year politics, pushed back hard at what many Indians said was American arrogance. Authorities removed security barriers at the American Embassy in New Delhi, canceled the embassy’s food and alcohol import privileges and engaged in other fits of pique. The State Department, at India’s request, granted Ms. Khobragade diplomatic immunity. But after negotiations with prosecutors on a plea bargain failed, she was asked to leave the United States and, in exchange, an American diplomat was withdrawn from India.

Ms. Khobragade has been hailed at home as a symbol of Indian pride. Her father, a retired bureaucrat and her chief defender, is talking of running for public office with a campaign focused on his daughter’s case. Indians have been overwhelming sympathetic to Ms. Khobragade and shockingly indifferent to Ms. Richard, one of untold numbers of powerless domestic workers lured to America by the promise of a job gone bad.

Even so, the case might have been handled better. The United States cannot ignore laws that mandate how workers should be paid and that they be treated fairly. But federal prosecutors have wide discretion, and the State Department, before the criminal investigation, could have urged India to reassign Ms. Khobragade to New Delhi and required her to make restitution.

The United States has to make sure that foreign diplomats understand American laws, although the indictment says that this defendant knew exactly what she was doing. America should also re-examine its own demands for special privileges for its diplomats overseas. More broadly, the case has exposed differences between the two countries over such basic concepts as fairness and equality, while revealing a troubling level of Indian animosity toward the United States. The two governments are trying to turn the page by resuming high-level meetings. But it will take more than that to achieve the “global strategic partnership” with India that President Obama has boasted about.

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