India vs USA !
India is a culturally rich country, one mostly recognized as the exotic asian land at odds with its neighbor Pakistan, with IT geniuses, Tigers, Curry and the Taj Mahal. India is now probably on the road to adding another stereotype to it’s list : diplomats in handcuffs. A situation that was seen for the first time in China during the Cultural Revolution.
2013 seems to have ended on shaky terms between India and the USA. Their peaceful relations seem to have halted putting them in a crisis, confronted to one another, the situation has now boiled down to India vs USA. As if waiting for the outcome no one in the international arena seems to have taken a stand either for or against any of them. But, this India vs USA game of reciprocity is making it look more like a round of tic tac toe that was put on hold for years.
The India vs USA tournament started during most of the cold war period because India was aligned with the Soviet Union and The USA was aligned with Iran, then in tension with India. The India vs USA confrontation had somehow reached a tie and cooled since the 1970’s; up until 1998 when, under the Clinton administration then allies with Pakistan, India was reprimanded to have nuclear bomb tests.
The India vs USA head-lock erupted again on December 12 2013 when Devyani Khobragade , Indian deputy consul general at 39 years of age was arrested in New York. Yes, arrested, leaving India disdained .
What is going on?
It was apparently because the Indian deputy consul general had underpaid her maid which she had fraudulently enter in the US. Though, bailed for 250 000 $, Devyani Khobragade still awaits trial on the 13th of January. All has escalated to a strict reciprocity game between the two countries ever since. Shortly after her arrest, the Indian government feeling more than insulted rebuked the US embassy in Delhi of visa frauds and tax evasions.
On the first week of January, the Indian government expressly asked the US embassy in Delhi to close down the social life center inside the embassy premises. This center had a swimming pool, bowling alleys and tennis courts among other recreational facilities reserved for the US diplomats in India. However, other US citizens living in India, Indian officials, journalists etc… had been using those facilities including the duty free store and cinema contrarily to diplomatic convention and to which the Indian government had turned a shut eye until now.
It seems as if to every blow the US gave India, the latter returned it with a smile. Even though India vs USA was less confrontational , as showed the warm welcome given to president Obama in 2010, unturned rocks still hid discomfort and suspicion. It was indeed a game of Tic Tac Toe with India vs USA; as the Indian government unceasingly reciprocated by removing special US diplomat identification cards and airport passes, as well as the concrete security barricades near the Us embassy in Delhi. And that is how the US diplomats and certainly most US officials in India would have lost special privileges in India. If we are waiting to see who will win the India vs USA round, I think we might have a long wait simply because it has been dragging for decades. But even after so many years of Tic and Tac it seems to have gotten to its brink (with a Toe) when India receives support from Pakistan (the hostile neighbor) based on the Vienna convention.
Will this lead to a cold relationship between them? It seems their relationship had been cold for decades due to trade, intellectual properties and IT worker visa issued uncleared, that it wouldn’t change much even if this case became as cold as they are.
Even if the US expressed regrets for the actions taken against Devyani Khobragade India is still waiting for apologies and is working on getting immunity for her. However, even the India vs USA routine seems to be falling out and widening the gap of understanding between these two great nations.The crackdown on the US embassy causing jaws to drop or the strip search and arrest of an Indian consul is as entertaining as it is critical.
Either ways, it doesn’t seem like I have done more than report each move of this India vs USA Tic Tac Toe round, but what can we really take from this situation? This India vs USA situation cannot linger much longer, because 1 billion $ a year depend on their bilateral trade as well as the economy. The US realizes that India is a new developing engine for the economy as it is a force to counterbalance the rising of China. Moreover, Ernest Moniz the US Secretary of Energy had to cancel his trip to India until mutually convenient dates came up. A trip which would have helped both countries probably reach important decisions regarding the energy consumption and alternative energy etc…
So knowing how important India is to the US how can the arrest and mistreating of an Indian consul on US soil by americans be explained? Serious crime? Public interest? Seeing that the grounds on which Devyani Khobragade was arrested on weren’t unknown to the Indian government, we might ask what really triggered this arrest. Specially when it is culturally acceptable to a have a maid in India and the wages were regarded fairly generous compared to average Indian diplomat wages. Yet, there was a similar situation that was later dismissed in 2010 with Prabhu Dayal based on his grounded defense of maids pursuing the american dream…so what led to this harsh move on her?
What are we waiting for? UN mediation ? Results of the trial? Diplomatic Immunity? My guess is as good as yours but 13th of January isn’t that far away!