India diplomat row: Delhi says 'no stand-off' with US

Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade meets reporters in Delhi, 11 January 2014 Devyani Khobragade maintained a diplomatic silence on meeting reporters in Delhi

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India's Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid has sought to play down the row with Washington over an Indian diplomat who was arrested in the US.

There was "no stand-off" with the US, he told reporters in Delhi, and predicted problems would be sorted out.

The row erupted after the diplomat, Devyani Khobragade, was arrested in New York on charges of visa fraud and underpaying her housekeeper.

She is now back in India after an apparent agreement with Washington.

"If there are any issues" India and the US will "sort them out mutually", Mr Khurshid said in televised remarks.

He was speaking a day after Ms Khobragade arrived in India, where she was greeted by her father, Uttam. On Saturday, the two were welcomed by Mr Khurshid.

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.

Surrounded by reporters on leaving the Maharashtra Sadan state guesthouse, Ms Khobragade gave little away.

"No comments, I am really thankful for all your support... I cannot make any comments right now. My government will speak for me, my lawyer will speak for me," she said.

Ms Khobragade was asked to leave the US as the diplomatic rift deepened.

The US meanwhile confirmed that an American official will leave its embassy in Delhi at India's request - Mr Khurshid described this as an expulsion.

"We have our reasons and have informed the US about it. We are in touch with the US. We will do what needs to be done. I do not think that this needs more discussion," Mr Khurshid said.

Washington said it deeply regretted the move but hoped that it would bring closure to the case and lead to a return to constructive ties.

The expelled US diplomat has not been named.

Sources told Agence France Presse that the individual was of similar rank to Ms Khobragade and had been involved in the Khobragade case.

'Shocked and appalled'
Devyani Khobragade with her father, Uttam, (left) in Delhi, 11 January 2014 Ms Khobragade and her father (l) met the Indian foreign minister the day after her arrival in Delhi

India had demanded an apology after Ms Khobragade, 39, was handcuffed and strip-searched following her arrest last month. It refused to waive her immunity so she could be prosecuted in the US.

Ms Khobragade has always denied any wrongdoing.

On Thursday she was indicted by a US federal grand jury in Manhattan, but was also granted immunity by US officials, paving the way for her to return to India.

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

She 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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