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BEING EQUAL

One of the great delusions enjoyed by the United States of America is that because it is the world’s only superpower it can get away with anything it wants. Every now and then the swollen head of the US needs to be pricked to bring the superpower down to reality. The Indian government has proceeded to do exactly this in the matter concerning the arrest and the subsequent treatment of the Indian diplomat, Devyani Khobragade. Even if it is assumed, for the sake of argument, that Ms Khobragade is guilty as charged, there is no justification for the treatment that has been meted out to her. The matter could have easily been handled in a less ham-handed manner. India retaliated with a slew of strong steps against US diplomats based in Delhi. This, and only this, brought forth an expression of regret from the US secretary of state, John Kerry. The US has thus climbed down from its high horse. American diplomats in India enjoy certain privileges and some of them misuse those privileges; there is also the possibility that some American nationals employed by the US government in India are not strictly obeying Indian laws. By protocol, the grounds of the US consulate and its offices are considered extensions of US soil and therefore governed by US laws. Does this mean that all Indian staff who work in those consulates, as domestic and administrative staff, are paid salaries that are commensurate with those that prevail in the US?

There are other examples of double standards. An article published in the editorial page of this newspaper on Wednesday pointed out that, a week before Ms Khobragade was arrested, 49 Russian diplomats were charged with carrying out a medical insurance fraud worth $1.5 million. Of those that have been charged, 11 continue to work at the Russian consulate in New York, but none of them was treated in the humiliating manner Ms Khobragade has been handled. In fact, officials were restrained from taking action by the state department. Obviously, in the US, diplomats of some countries are more equal than diplomats of other countries. US diplomats will now be forced to live in India without any special privileges and be at the mercy of Indian law-enforcing agencies. They have only the bullying tactics of their own government to thank for this. The Indian government has shown the US state department what the world is like without diplomatic niceties. For once, Uncle Sam has been forced to eat humble pie.