Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade arrives in Delhi from US: Deal reached after rift over arrest and strip-search

India increases Ms Khobragade's level of immunity leaving the US unable to proceed from prosecution

Delhi

The US has confirmed that one of its diplomats is being sent back from India in a tit-for-tat exchange designed at ending one of the most serious stand-offs between the two countries for many years.

An Indian envoy who has been at the centre of the bitter, simmering diplomatic row arrived back in Delhi on Friday night after she was ordered to leave the US as part of a deal brokered by the two countries. She was met by her father, to whom she said: “Papa, I love you.”

Officials in Delhi said on Friday morning that Devyani Khobragade, who was arrested and strip-searched after being accused of visa fraud, had left the US after India increased her level of diplomatic immunity. The US authorities said they could no longer proceed with a prosecution against her and she was expelled from the country.

“Devyani Khobragade given G1 visa with full diplomatic immunity on 8 Jan 2014. Airborne on way back to India,” Syed Akbarrudin, a spokesman for India’s foreign ministry, said in a statement posted on social media.

But in a sign that the dispute had not yet quite been defused, the Indian government yesterday asked the US to withdraw one of its senior diplomats from New Delhi in a gesture that is highly unusual in relations between such big allies.

Indian media reported that the American, Wayne May, is head of diplomatic security at the embassy. He and his wife, who is also a diplomat, were reportedly involved in the case and arranged for the  family of the Indian envoy’s maid to travel to the US.

“We deeply regret that the Indian government felt it was necessary to expel one of our diplomatic personnel,” said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki, without commenting on the diplomat’s identity.

“This has clearly been a challenging time in the US-India relationship. We expect and hope that this will now come to closure and the Indians will take significant steps with us to improve our relationship and return it to a more constructive place.”

The decision by the US to accede to India’s request to accredit Ms Khobragade to the United Nations - which enjoys broader immunity than she had as a consular official - appears to have been the outcome of days of high-level negotiations. Many observers believed the matter should have been dealt with much sooner and was starting to damage the broader relationship between the two democracies.

Ms Khobragade, 39, India’s deputy consul-general in New York, had originally been arrested on December 12 and charged with one count of visa fraud and one of making false statements about how much she paid a domestic worker.

Prosecutors said that Ms Khobragade had said on a form that she was going to pay her maid, Sangeeta Richards, $4,500 a month but only gave her a fraction of that and a sum that was below the US minimum wage. The indictment placed before the court claims Ms Richards often worked more than 100 hours a week and only received half-a-day off.

The US prosecutor, Preet Bharara, an Indian American, had insisted Ms Khobragade had broken the law and that her diplomatic status did not grant her immunity.

But in India the arrest of the diplomat triggered outrage and was seen as an insult to the entire country. For weeks, the matter has been the subject of often frenzied media attention with repeated demands that the Indian government take a solid stance on the issue.

Another factor is that the row has come as India is preparing for a general election and the Congress party-led government, already struggling, has not wanted to be seen as weak.

India had responded by withdrawing a number of privileges enjoyed by US diplomats in India and cancelling a series of visits, including one scheduled for next week by US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.

Ms Khobragade’s return to India came after she was formally charged on Thursday in New York before a federal grand jury.

However, according to the Associated Press, the US State Department had on Wednesday agreed to India’s request to accredit her to the UN, which enjoys higher diplomatic immunity.

In the next step of the diplomatic sarabande, the US asked India to waive Ms Khobragadeís diplomatic immunity. India then denied this request meaning the US was obliged to halt the prosecution. On Thursday afternoon, a judge in New York was informed that Ms Khobragade had been granted immunity and had been ordered to leave the US by the State Department.

In a statement, Ms Khobragade's lawyer, Daniel Arshack, said the diplomat would be leaving with her head “held high”. “She knows she has done no wrong and she looks forward to assuring that the truth is known,” he said.

The diplomat’s maid, Ms Richards, who has been granted permission to stay in the US with her family, issued her first public statement, saying she wanted to work for a few years before returning to India.

“I never thought that things would get so bad here, that I would work so much that I did not have time to sleep or eat or have time to myself,” she said in a statement released by the group Safe Horizon.

She added: “I would like to tell other domestic workers who are suffering as I did - you have rights and do not let anyone exploit you.”

India will claim the return of Ms Khobragade as a victory, even though prosecutors made clear that the two charges against her remain pending and she could be returned to court if her immunity were to be waived or if she visited the US without a diplomatic passport.

The twisting saga over the diplomat's arrest highlighted a number of differences between the two countries. Many US commentators said Ms Khobragade should have obeyed the law and should not have escaped prosecution.

In India, many accused the US of hypocrisy and pointed to cases such as that of CIA operative Raymond Davies who was eventually spirited out of Pakistan in 2011 even though he faced a double murder charges and was not a diplomat.

The US, which paid blood money to the victims' families, claimed Mr Davis enjoyed diplomatic immunity. Members of the US Congress also threatened to stop aid to Pakistan if he was not released.

Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
News
peoplePamela Anderson rejects ice bucket challenge because of ALS experiments on animals
Arts and Entertainment
tvExecutive says content is not 'without any purpose'
News
A cleaner prepares the red carpet for the opening night during the 59th International Cannes Film Festival May 17, 2006 in Cannes, France.
newsPowerful vacuum cleaners to be banned under EU regulations
News
newsChester Zoo have revealed their newest members
Sport
sportLeague Managers' Association had described Malky Mackay texts as 'friendly banter'
Arts and Entertainment
tvSpielberg involved in bringing his 2002 film to the small screen
News
peopleCareer spanned 70 years, including work with Holocaust survivors
News
people
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Generalist HR Administrator, Tunbridge Wells, Kent - £28,000.

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Generalist HR Administrator - Tunbri...

Head of IT (Not-for-Profit sector) - East Sussex

£45000 - £50000 per annum + 5 weeks holiday & benefits: Ashdown Group: Head of...

Supply Teaching jobs in Thetford

£21588 - £31566 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education ar...

KS1 teachers needed in Peterborough

£110 - £125 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education are ur...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape