So, there's been a lot of blowback in India over the Devyani Khobragade affair. She's a deputy consul general in New York, and she got arrested there last week over the servant she imported from back home. The plan was to pay her India prices for full-time domestic drudgery, which is much less than the law allows, so she fudged the A-3 visa paperwork to make everything look aboveboard. Remember everyone — it's not the crime, but the coverup that gets you.
They say there's a difference between diplomatic and consular immunity, and because Khobragade's a consular officer rather than a diplomat, she only has a get out of jail free card for stuff she does as part of her job. Funny, but I can remember a while back when we claimed immunity for some CIA spook posing as a diplomat in Pakistan when he drew down and smoked two guys he said were trying to rob him. It wasn't the detectives over at SVU that brought her in though — the State Department's diplomatic security team handled the arrest and turned her over to the US Marshals for booking. The big explosive allegation out of this is that she was supposedly strip-searched as part of the process.
What's the reaction to all this back in India? They're pissed — pissed and deeply, deeply offended. The picture there is of the police knocking down all the concrete safety barriers outside the US embassy in New Delhi because they're "blocking traffic." I assume that protests are incoming, and they want the ambassador to feel the heat. She already got summoned for an official complaint from the Foreign Secretary, which is pretty much part of the job. For some insight into what they find so upsetting:
Her case quickly became a major story in India, with politicians urging diplomatic retaliation and TV news channels showing the woman in a series of smiling family photos.
That reaction may look outsized in the United States, but the case touches on a string of issues that strike deeply in India, where the fear of public humiliation resonates strongly and heavy-handed treatment by the police is normally reserved for the poor. For an educated, middle-class woman to face public arrest and a strip search is almost unimaginable, except in the most brutal crimes.
Far less serious protocol complaints have become big issues in the past. Standard security checks in the U.S. regularly are front-page news here when they involve visiting Indian dignitaries, who are largely exempt from friskings while at home.
India's former speaker of Parliament, Somnath Chatterjee once refused to attend an international meeting in Australia when he wasn't given a guarantee that he would not have to pass through security. Chatterjee said even the possibility of a security screening was "an affront to India."
The treatment and pay of household staff, meanwhile, is largely seen as a family issue, off-limits to the law.
We'll see what happens with this! I think she might end up quietly deported.