By Sajjad Shaukat
During his visit to India in 2010, US President Barrack Obama signed multiple agreements with New Delhi in various fields such as $10 billion in trade deals and creation of more than 50,000 US jobs besides the measures, America would take regarding removal of Indian space and defence companies from a restricted “entities list”, and supported Indian demand for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council including membership of four key global nuclear non-proliferation regimes. Owing to these agreements, India has also been purchasing C-17 and F35 aircrafts along with latest defence-related arms and equipments from Washington.
In February, 2011, America had pressurised the International Atomic Agency (IAEA) to sign an accord of specific safeguards with India. It permits New Delhi a broad atomic cooperation, while superseding the IAEA regarding transfer of nuclear equipments and technologies. These arrangements also entail enrichment and reprocessing items under the so-called cover of IAEA. In this regard, Washington also contacted the Nuclear Suppliers Group in order to grant a waiver to India for starting civil nuclear trade on larger scale.
Setting aside the Indian irresponsible record of non-proliferation, defence agreement signed between the US and India on July 20, 2011 as part of the deal about civil nuclear technology, agreed upon by the two countries in 2008 has raised new alarms on global and regional level. But, in that respect, the then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged India to be more assertive in Asia, saying that as American ally, the country should play more of a leadership role.
On the other hand, while showing US paradoxical approach towards Pakistan, Ms. Hillary remarked, “New Delhi could also help promote trade links in violence-wracked South Asia, which would bring prosperity and peace to India, Pakistan and Afghanistan…Pakistan must do more to tackle terror groups operating from its territory being used for attacks that destabilise Afghanistan or India.”
The United States seems determined to keep around 10,000 troops and some military bases in Afghanistan permanently after the withdrawal of NATO forces in 2014. Besides, US has also planned to maintain Indian role in Afghanistan to complete its hidden agenda. In this connection, the former US Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta said on October 26, 2012 that India has vital role to play in Afghanistan and it will be helpful for peace and stability in the region, adding, “Our new defence policy hinges upon this strategy.”
In fact, by concealing its double game with India, under the pretext of strategic partnership—by boasting Indian defence and its role in Afghanistan, America wants to fulfill multiple designs so as to counterbalance China, control the energy resources of Central Asia, and to weaken Pakistan, Beijing, Iran and Russia.
But, US double game with India exposed on December 12, 2013 when Indian diplomat, Devyani Khobragade, the Indian Deputy Consul General in New York was arrested on charges of visa fraud and lying to US authorities on a visa application about how much she paid to her housekeeper (an Indian national). She was arrested right in front of her daughter’s Manhattan School, handcuffed and driven to Police Search Station for completion of investigation process.
Indian government, media and general public felt the pain of collective shame and sense of culpability as their female diplomat was subjected to harsh search, generally meant for dangerous criminals and people of shady character. Her shrieking screams and strident assertions about ‘diplomatic immunity’ fell on deaf ears and she was made to bear the vulgar blow of humiliation, while undergoing awful process of cavity search. Indian media disclosed, “She was subjected to a humiliating strip search and kept in a cell with drug addicts.” She was released on $ 250,000/-bail, as she pleaded not guilty on all charges levelled against her—surrendering her passport and avowing to report to Police Station in New York on weekly basis.
One simply feels sad with a sense of remorse and emotional empathy on her ordained disgrace on US soil where her diplomatic immunity has been rudely dilapidated. India has quickly reacted against such a treatment of their diplomat demanding an unconditional US apology. They have also asked the US to withdraw all cases against the diplomat, while undertaking retaliatory steps to withdraw concessions from US diplomats in India. As a protest in relation to the ill-treatment of the lady diplomat, Indian Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde called her treatment unacceptable. He cancelled his meeting with the senior US Congressional delegation. Other parliamentarians including the governing Congress party Vice-President, Rahul Gandhi and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi also refused to meet the delegation.
While, Indian media projected ugly scenes of removing security barriers placed before US embassy in India, while Indian public, intellectuals, analysts and high officials expressed their anger and emotional outbursts towards US for maltreating their diplomat.
However, diplomacy and maintenance of international relations suggest that civilized norms and refined customs be observed to maintain dignity and decorum entitled to other states and their diplomats. Unfortunately, the US, overwhelmed by power motives, have developed callous and cold-hearted attitude towards sensitivities of the Third World countries. Body search and cavity search of an Indian female diplomat by US authorities reflects its high-handedness. Indian bold assertions and emotional reaction appears to be justified, while the entire episode suggests to US to reexamine its deteriorating trends in diplomacy.
US media and certain officials have branded Indian reaction as a revengeful tactics, without realizing that Indians are justified in their reaction to denounce violation of diplomatic immunity by US officials. Their demands for unconditional apology and withdrawal of case against their female diplomat are also legal and politically accurate. US should show greater sense of magnanimity and compassion by extending a word of apology to India and by withdrawing the case against Devyani Khobragade. This will help US improve its image and prestige. Meanwhile, her hastily-transfer to India’s Permanent Mission to the UN in New York has widely been reported as a bid to ensure her full immunity.
Particularly, South Asian media should project that Washington must be aware of cultural esteem, attached to female honour in South Asia including India. Ms. Devyani Khobragade represents Indian educated middle class and her body or cavity search, handcuffing and investigation badly ripped off her personal dignity which certainly needs to be restored at all costs. Indian determination as expressed by Indian prime minister and foreign minister to get her back and restore her decorum seem praiseworthy. How far will the Indians go to restore the modesty of their female diplomat, get an unconditional apology from US and convince the latter to withdraw the case against Devyani, will also prove the audacity of Indian leadership.
Regional media should also emphasize that diplomats posted abroad must respect the local laws and avoid indulging in any activity which may cause them embarrassment, shame and guilt. It appears as if Ms. Devyani Khobragade was not prudent enough to respect US laws which led to such a messy row between India and America. She was entrapped in a messy tangle which caused her trouble. But one feels pity on poor female diplomat.
Surely, national interests will finally prevail to settle such an irritant between New Delhi and Washington. Notably, Indians are basically intriguing in nature and do not believe in forgiving or forgetting, especially when openly humiliated and publically disgraced. They keep the vendetta alive even after the resolution of any dispute, political row and diplomatic irritants. Their subjective grooming enables them to maintain calm while remembering the pain of the past ill-treatment. As Indian security removed barricades from the US embassy, the role of Indians seemed personified carrying emotional frenzy and belligerence to impress upon US to return their woman free of any case and also extend an apology in this respect.
Nonetheless, after the maltreatment of its lady diplomat, the right hour has come that Ne Delhi must know that America which is playing double game with India, watches its own strategic interests, and is not going to prove a trustworthy friend on permanent basis. History proves that the US has always betrayed Pakistan and so it will do with the Indians. In this context, after using Islamabad in its previous Afghan war against the former Russia, Washington left Islamabad to face the fallout of that war. In the near future, along with Pakistan, Indians will face the fallout of the ongoing war in Afghanistan. So, instead of increasing its defence budget at the cost of poverty-stricken people, and pursuing war-like diplomacy against Pakistan by fulfilling American covert aims against China and Iran, India must better develop peaceful relations with these countries by resolving all disputes including Kashmir issue, which are essential for regional stability.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations