The row over the arrest of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade, which has roiled U.S.-India ties in recent weeks, seemed to have been resolved on Friday in an apparent face-saving conclusion for both countries.
Khobragade left the U.S. on Thursday evening after she was indicted earlier in the day in a U.S. court. She was asked to leave the country after India refused to waive the new diplomatic immunity granted her. Khobragade told Press Trust of India, or PTI, that all charges against her are false and baseless.
"As a result of her diplomatic status having been recognized, the Federal court today recognized Dr. Khobragade’s right to travel and she is pleased to be returning to her country,” Daniel Arshack, Khobragade’s lawyer, said in a statement. He added: “Her head is held high."
Khobragade, 39, who was deputy consul-general in New York, was arrested on Dec. 12, and indicted on Thursday by a grand jury in Manhattan for underpaying her housekeeper and for submitting or causing to submit multiple false representations in connection with her treatment of the maid, to U.S. authorities.
"She knows she has done no wrong and she looks forward to assuring that the truth is known," Arshack said in a statement.
The series of events that led to Khobragade's departure from the U.S. were dramatic and seemed to follow an agreed script. According to Arshack, the U.S. Department of State, after processing a request from India appointing Khobragade to India’s permanent mission to the UN, granted her full diplomatic immunity on Wednesday.
Earlier on Thursday, the prosecution indicted the diplomat in the visa fraud case, after the federal court rejected a plea from the diplomat seeking to extend her indictment. However, the diplomatic immunity granted to the envoy gave her protection from prosecution, and the freedom to travel outside the country.
The State Department asked Khobragade to leave the country after India rejected a request from the department to waive Khobragade’ immunity. India, on the other hand, said that the envoy is leaving the country as she was transferred to the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi.
Although Khobragade's diplomatic immunity protected her from prosecution, her indictment would prevent her from returning to the U.S. The State Department has reportedly said that it will take the necessary steps to prevent Khobragade from returning to the country. Khobragade's American husband and their children, according to Reuters, are still in the U.S.
Although the latest developments in the case could thaw tensions between the two countries, it is not clear how long it would take to normalize bilateral relations, which soured after India introduced retaliatory measures against U.S. diplomats in the country following Khobragade's arrest in New York.