Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for India

Newsline: India-China Bhai-bhai diplomacy

When 77-year-old Wang Qi, a former People’s Liberation Army surveyor who accidentally strayed into India in 1963, landed in Beijing this morning after 54 years, he had two unusual guests waiting for him at the airport. Thelma John David and Siddharth Malik, second secretaries at the Indian embassy in Beijing, are part of a diplomatic mission that had only Thursday formally protested China’s efforts at shielding Pakistan-based terrorist Masood Azhar from UN sanctions. But early on Saturday morning, they greeted Wang and his son Vishnu at the airport before accompanying them, along with officials from China’s foreign ministry, on a joint visit to Wang’s hometown Xianyang in Shaanxi province, 30km upstream from Xi’an. Wang – whose journey starting from his entry and capture in India, through the decades he has raised his family with an Indian wife in a Madhya Pradesh hamlet, gained public prominence following a BBC report – is not an Indian citizen. He still holds a Chinese passport and India had already facilitated access to him and his family, Indian citizens, for the Chinese embassy in New Delhi. Wang and his son are expected to return to India after meeting their extended family. But the visit to the Beijing airport and then Xianyang by two Indian embassy officials was a part of a publicly emphasised humanitarian gesture. That gesture itself belongs to an emerging pattern India is relying on to keep diplomacy alive amid a confluence of heightened tensions with its two largest neighbours, China and Pakistan, and global uncertainty following Donald Trump’s victory as US President.


Newsline: Dublin residents fail to stop plans for Indian embassy

Residents from Merrion Road in Dublin 4 have failed in their attempts to block the Indian government from establishing a new embassy on the road. An Bord Pleanála has dismissed the appeal by the Merrion Road Residents’ Association against Dublin City Council granting planning permission to the Office of the Ambassador of India to change the use of 69 Merrion Road an embassy and extend the property. In approving the move, the board rejected the recommendation of its own inspector to refuse planning permission. Inspector Derek Daly said that if the application was permitted, the area will become overwhelmingly non-residential in relation to use. However, the board ruled in deciding not to accept the inspector’s recommendation, it found that the intensity of use would be acceptable at this location. The current Indian embassy is located at Leeson Park in D4. Ambassador, Smt. Radhika Lol Lokesh is to remain at the Indian ambassador’s residence in Foxrock. However, the application for the new embassy provoked a wave of opposition from residents’ associations representing some of the most prestigious addresses in the country.


Newsline: Indian diplomat claims to be victim of maid’s blackmail in New York

The Indian diplomat who was kicked out of the U.S. on charges she exploited her maid now claims she was the victim of an extortion plot hatched by the housekeeper. Devyani Khobragade, former Deputy Consul General of India in New York, says her domestic worker tried to blackmail her and claims the household help was part of the “racket” of New York immigration advocates who prey on employers. The 39-year-old disgraced diplomat says she is distressed at being portrayed as an elitist exploiter of the poor, speaking out for the first time since she was forced from the U.S. in January following her legal debacle. She was charged with visa fraud, based on paperwork she completed for her maid and nanny, Sangeeta Richard, who also accused Khobragade of withholding fair payment and forcing her to work 19-hour days. But Khobragade denies the allegations, saying Richard threatened her when the maid decided she wanted to take on additional jobs even though that would violate immigration law. She also blasted U.S. law enforcement for treating her like “a common criminal” when she was taken into custody and strip searched by U.S. Marshals in New York. Her arrest sparked outrage in her home country and the Indian government unleashed their displeasure at the U.S. over her treatment. She now lives in New Delhi and has not taken up a new diplomatic post since there is still an outstanding warrant for her arrest in the U.S.


Newsline: Indian embassy in Qatar receives 2792 complaints

The Indian embassy in Doha has received 2,792 complaints so far this year. In the previous years, 3,385 (2012) and 3,558 (2013) complaints were received by the labour and community welfare section. Ambassador Sanjiv Arora and other senior officials assured the complainants of further follow-up with the local authorities and necessary action. According to the embassy, 85 Indian nationals are currently serving varied sentences in the Central Prison and another 143, who are awaiting repatriation, are housed at the Deportation Centre. On the basis of the requests received from the Qatari authorities for travel documents for detainees at the Deportation Centre, the embassy has issued 28 emergency certificates (ECs) so far this month. The mission facilitated the repatriation of 64 Indian nationals from the Deportation Centre till now.


Newsline: Former American ambassador to India to lead US Ebola effort in Africa

The US State Department on Wednesday named Nancy Powell, the former United States ambassador to India, to coordinate Washington’s response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The epidemic has already killed more than 2,000 people – more than the combined total of all previous Ebola outbreaks – more of them in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, where it has overwhelmed fragile health services. US President Barack Obama has declared the Ebola outbreak a national security priority and said he would send 3,000 US troops to the affected region. “In this role, Ambassador Powell will lead the State Department’s outreach to international partners, including foreign governments, to ensure a speedy and truly global response to this crisis,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.


Newsline: Obama nominates Indian-American as ambassador to India

President Barack Obama nominated former State Department official Richard Verma as U.S. ambassador to India, just ahead of a visit to Washington by new Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a White House statement said. Verma, an Indian-American, served as assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs at the State Department in the Obama administration from 2009 to 2011. He is currently a senior counselor at Steptoe & Johnson law firm and the Albright Stonebridge Group, a business advisory company, led by former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. He will be the first Indian-American to do the job. If he is confirmed by Congress, Verma will replace Nancy Powell, who resigned in March after a damaging row over the treatment of a junior Indian diplomat, Devyani Khobragade, who was accused by authorities in New York of visa fraud and underpaying a domestic worker. Khobragade was arrested and strip-searched in New York last year, an incident that took the U.S.-India relationship to its lowest ebb in a decade. The U.S. Embassy in New Delhi is currently headed by a charge d’ Affairs, Kathleen Stephens. Modi is due to visit Washington Sept. 29-30 for a trip aimed at revitalizing ties and clearing the air.


Newsline: Indian diplomat’s daughter scores $225K over wrongful arrest in New York

The daughter of an Indian diplomat has scored a $225,000 settlement from the Big Apple over her wrongful 2011 arrest on cyberbullying charges. The settlement agreement, OK’d by Manhattan federal Judge John Koetl this week, also praises Krittika Biswas for being an honor student while at John Bowne HS in Queens. Biswas, now 21, was suspended, arrested and forced to spend a day in jail during her senior year in February 2011, after being accused of sending profane and threatening e-mails to her teachers. Her charges were dropped after a male classmate was fingered as the real culprit. She had sought $1.5 million in her 2012 suit against the city and school officials while alleging the investigation leading to her arrest was a “sham,” and lacking any real evidence. Biswas has since moved back to India. She is the daughter of Debashish Biswas, who was vice counsel at the Consulate General of India in Manhattan at the time of her arrest.