Diplomatic row: US thinks India is a banana republic
RT:It seems that India and the US are in the middle of a diplomatic spat. New Delhi is being very specific regarding its retaliation – arresting same sex partners of foreign mission employees and stripping US diplomats of immunity and privileges. Where will it end? Are we just going to see this go back and forth?
Sreeram Chaulia: I hope not, but diplomacy operates on the principal of reciprocity and I’m afraid the Americans have not shown the basic courtesies to our diplomat in New York. And we have every right to retaliate with appropriate measures of our own. This has not been savory at all. It’s been rather nasty and we would have never wanted this in the first place, but the US State Department has always applied double standards. Think about the Raymond Davies case involving a US CIA contractor undercover as a diplomat in Pakistan who killed two citizens. President Obama came out at the time and put a lot of pressure on Pakistan to save their so-called diplomat who was actually a spy - and a killer to boot - and said “you know there’s a broader principle at stake. This is diplomatic immunity." We use the same logic with this case. It was a far smaller offense, it was a much less grave crime, it was a domestic dispute between our diplomat and her domestic helper. But they escalated it to a point where you know she was strip searched and humiliated, so we have every right. US diplomats often get away with a lot in many foreign postings and we have been extending these courtesies because in diplomacy, you need to do it in order for the relations to go ahead. But unfortunately the Americans seem to have thought that India is a banana republic and doesn’t have the spine to hit back. So we have taken measures, but we hope that the Americans will see sense. US Secretary of State John Kerry has expressed regrets, but that is actually insufficient because we have been demanding a firmer apology. But nonetheless, I think they will see sense because reciprocity means if you do bad you will also get bad. If You give respect, you get respect.
RT:You mentioned John Kerry’s statement. The diplomat’s lawyer also says that investigators made certain mistakes when looking into the actual claim of visa fraud. Why won’t the US back down and review the case? Especially after hearing such words as “regret” from such high-ranking officials?
SC: They should. I mean, the argument that they have their own independent legal process does not apply here, simply because the issue of bilateral relations takes precedence over the nitty-gritty of legal legalia. And in this case, it could very well be true that our diplomat made a mistake or otherwise. But that is for the technical issues. We are more incensed about the lack of sensitivity on the part of the US government and the State Department, which initiated the complaint in the first place, and all its unsavory business.
RT:This is really the first strong action by New Delhi against the US in years. What does it mean for the bilateral relationship between the two, as you see it?
SC: It is a relatively robust bilateral relationship with both economic and security aspects…remember this lady was not just a private citizen who just committed some small infraction; she was a representative of the state, a diplomatic symbol of the bilateral relationship. And I don’t think she should have been dealt with in the manner she was, no matter what her fault was. And I think the Indians are sending a clear message that we want to be with the US as equals; not as superordinate and subordinate. The world has changed and it needs to adjust its lenses; [the US] cannot have double standards - one for its diplomats and the other for diplomats from what they possibly consider to be third world countries. We want respect, and I think that has been the overall message of stronger measures and reactions in India.