Devyani Khobragade: India seeks US official's withdrawal

Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade Devyani Khobragade arrived back in India late on Friday

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India has asked the US to withdraw an official from its embassy in Delhi in a row over the arrest of an Indian diplomat in New York.

Devyani Khobragade has now arrived back in Delhi after she was ordered to leave the US, having been indicted on criminal charges.

She was arrested on charges of visa fraud and underpaying her housekeeper.

India demanded an apology after she was handcuffed and strip-searched, and had refused to waive her immunity.

Analysis

In requiring the US to remove one of its diplomats from Delhi the Indian government is effectively treating the departure of its own diplomat from the US as an expulsion.

The question now is whether this draws a line under the messy diplomatic spat between the two countries.

Of greater importance is the longer-term impact this may have on bilateral ties. India, a democracy and rising power in Asia, is seen in many quarters in Washington as a natural fit to become a special partner of the United States. The US has sought a closer strategic and military partnership with Delhi but to a large extent has been rebuffed.

India is cautious about advancing ties too quickly. It doesn't want to antagonise Beijing and many Indians still see the US as having been far too close to Pakistan.

Ms Khobragade has always denied any wrongdoing.

She arrived back in the Indian capital at about 22:30 (17:00 GMT) on Friday, Indian media said.

Diplomatic reprisals

Some local reports say Washington has been asked to withdraw a diplomat of a "similar rank" as Ms Khobragade from its Delhi mission.

Others quote an unnamed government official as saying the US official was involved in the case relating to Ms Khobragade, India's deputy consul general in New York - although this is yet to be confirmed.

The US embassy has not commented so far.

The BBC's diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus says that by ordering the US to remove one of its officials from its Delhi embassy, the Indian government is treating the departure of Ms Khobragade as an expulsion.

She was arrested after a complaint from her maid, Sangeeta Richard.

Ms Khobragade in turn accused Ms Richard of theft and attempted blackmail.

Delhi said it was "shocked and appalled" at the manner of her arrest, and ordered a series of diplomatic reprisals against the US.

Security barricades around the US embassy in the capital were removed and a visiting US delegation was snubbed by senior Indian politicians and officials.

On Wednesday, the embassy was ordered to stop "commercial activities on its premises". India also said that embassy cars could be penalised for traffic offences.

The embassy has been told to shut down a club within its premises which includes a pool, restaurant and tennis court, NDTV news channel said.

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