‘My advice to Devyani is to stay away from the limelight’

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Salman Khurshid | 61 | External Affairs Minister Photo: Shailendra Pandey

Devyani Khobragade is finally back home from the US. How do you see this development?

The development is that she is back. But the episode is something that shouldn’t have happened. We tried our best to resolve the issue at the earliest. Now, we have put her out of any distress. Some loose ends remain to be tied. We will continue our parleys with the US State Department and find a solution.

Do you think that the affair could have been handled differently?

I don’t know. If you mean that it should not have happened, that she should not have been arrested, the answer is yes. But if you mean something else, then the answer is no. We couldn’t have done anything other than what we did.

Did the US authorities get in touch with the Ministry of External Affairs in October regarding the Devyani case?

We were in touch with the US authorities all the time; there were a lot of discussions. But at no time was there any indication that it could reach such a point. Normally under these circumstances, if a country has a problem, they tell you to withdraw the person from service, but no such indication was given. It was given now and that’s why we withdrew her.

Why did the US authorities prosecute Devyani, but not Sangeeta Richard, the maid?

I don’t know. Authorities in every country respond to public pressure of one kind or the other. There are very active NGOs that work on so-called human rights issues, but actually target people working for diplomatic staff and some of them obviously have links with the US staff who are based in India. This is not the first time. These sort of incidents have happened elsewhere and we had pulled out all stops to handle them. I hope we can find a long-term solution.

Why did the US embassy give visas to the maid’s family and fly them out?

I have no idea at all. If I knew, I would have been less perplexed.

Do you think that the US immigration Bill has anything to do with the affair?

No, I think it has largely to do with self-professed human rights groups that concentrate on what is a very profitable enterprise… in which lawyers and activists get together and force diplomats and other well-placed people to cough up money in order to get out of any inconvenience caused to them.

Will this affect Devyani’s career?

She should get back to her professional life. She should get out of the limelight and continue to work hard as a good professional. The temptation of being in the spotlight is understandable, but my advice would be to stay away from it.

Will Devyani be able to travel to the US on official business?

Not for the time being because she does not have any immunity in the US. Currently, she is still facing criminal charges there. Until things are sorted out, she won’t be able to travel to that country.

The Indian government has revoked some privileges enjoyed by the staff at the US embassy. How do you see that development?

We didn’t take anything away. We just did some accounting and found that some privileges were way beyond reciprocity. We just made sure everything is according to standard procedures.

How do you see the future of Indo-US relations?

I’m quite hopeful that the bilateral ties will be successful. We have an important strategic partnership. Both sides value this relationship. I’m sure that both countries don’t want to waste such an investment.

There is some speculation that all this was done under severe pressure from the IFS lobby?

There was no question of pressure. We have not gone out of the way to do anything. Once the dust is settled, there will be some mopping up to do.

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