Published January 24, 2014 by vishalvkale

The Devyani Khobragade episode is slowly receding from public memory & media attention, on the back of a gag order, behind-the-scenes diplomacy and a wish to move forward from both the involved parties. Having said that, every once in a while, a tit-bit of news or information does reach us that indicates that all is not well, and is in reality very very far from being well. The continued aggression by India on the US Embassy Visa issues and Taxation issues, as well as Salman Khurshid’s insistence on Trafficking Visas, combined with Indian insistence that USA drop all charges indicates that it will be a very long time before things normalize between us and the USA.
At this point, it is important that we do a post-mortem on the entire event, and try and determine what went wrong, or at least what the reasons this happened, as well as analyse the USA’s behavior. I have analysed the Indian response in the previous  2 articles on this matter; {Self Respect Vs Trade; Strategic Partnership} and a full analysis on what went wrong is obviously beyond the scope of my blog given that I lack full information on the event. That leaves an analysis of the USA’s responses – which is critical, all the more so since any analysis done now will be far more balanced than when the bonhomie is back between our 2 nations. Further, this has nothing to do with the guilt or innocence on the part of any party – US School, US Embassy, Tax Issues, Visa Issues or even Devyani Khobragade. 
Before we get into the specific post-mortem, let us remind ourselves of the strides that have been made in this relationship (at least till Dec 12th, 2013) – just so that the entire matter is put into perspective. India and the USA had been described as the defining partnership of the 21st Century by politicians from both sides of this debate, right till the last level. India, which had a healthy distrust of getting into defense deals with the USA, was just beginning to shed its reticence. There were indications of a wide-ranging partnership on several important areas ranging from Space, to Defense, to Energy and more. India was being touted as a possible counterpoint to China. This is the backdrop of the matter at hand. And, it is noteworthy that the USA let Russians, being investigated for far more serious crimes – including consular officials, leave the country. It is also noteworthy that the USA did not respond to several Indian approaches and letters made to the USA in reply to its September communication. Put all of the above together – and the picture that forms is not a very healthy one, or indeed one that augurs well for a continued healthy relationship. 
The total disregard for the numerous Indian approaches by the state department in the USA – and it is a fact that India had been approaching for this case from a very long time – sets a very disturbing precedent. As does the disregard for the Indian warrant – justified warrant or not, fact remains that a warrant is a warrant – and the disregard for Indian laws and judiciary as is evident from the almost surreptitious removal of the family from India. This, when taken in the light of the partnership statements in above, point to two things – first, that India does not count for much in the eyes of the USA – or, as is claimed in the Media, The Obama Administration. Keep this last point in mind – I shall attempt to connect it up in Scenario – 2. 
The fact that they chose to ignore Indian laws, Vienna conventions with specific regard to treatment of diplomats even if under arrest, Indian Judiciary and the Indo-US partnership conclusively proves that there is no importance given to this relationship. I can make an allowance for the now-known fact that there have been major differences in the positions of the 2 sides – but the manner and the attitude of the approach as well as the way this issue was handled within the USA from start to finish, suggest that there is no genuineness in the US’ statements of a partnership – let alone a strategic partnership. If you value a partnership, you ought to have at least responded to the many Indian overtures on this matter. That they chose to studiously ignore all such overtures is conclusive. 
Put all of the above together – and the word you can spell is arrogance. This seems to be sheer arrogance and nothing else – a belief that you can ride roughshod over the position of a large nation of 1.27 billion people such as India, and a mistaken confidence in your own ability to disregard international conventions, norms as well as opinion. This is clearly evident in any number of previous spats the USA has found itself in. A case in point is the spy saga, when the USA spied on even its own partners like Germany and others, without a single thought to their opinions, and their response if found. This is also proven by the US refusal – consistent refusal to apologise. 
The willingness of the USA to take on the ire of even their closest partners, and the willingness to break all established norms of international discourse as in the spy saga, point to a colossal arrogance – the arrogance of the lone superpower, the arrogance of the party that knows that there is no nation, or indeed group of nations on Planet Earth, that can take it head-on either militarily, or in trade. We need to analyse this carefully – and ask ourselves is this the right path to take? Will this arrogance become out-of-hand? Can anyone say with any degree of certainty that this arrogance will not become even more over-bearing, and reach a level that can become harmful? 
A close analysis of the past year or so will reveal that the USA has been under constant pressure, and has been on the back-foot consistently – spy saga, Edward Snowden, DK episode et al. It has been regularly placed in the unfamiliar position of defending its actions, and saving face. In some cases, it has required a significant climb-down from previous positions. The events have seriously dented the image of the USA across the world, which is now increasingly viewed as a rogue nation, or at least a serious problem. Yet, this has done precisely nothing to its approach of steamrolling everyone in its path, whatever be the issue. 
An analysis of the statements in the aftermath of the DK episode makes it even more interesting. You had John Kerry and the US Ambassador expressing regret; you have denials of bad treatment; you had clarifications regarding an ugly video that emerged. Later on, it emerged that apparently, they were as angry as we were when this episode emerged; you had the US Defense Department putting pressure for a solution; isolated voices calling this a big mistake; statements that they did not expect such a response from India of all countries. Compare and contrast this with India, which was speaking in one voice – the Government, The Opposition – everyone was united, and spoke in one voice. 
This leads us to a few questions – does the lack of the chance of a response mean you can insult a friendly nation, break its laws, and ignore all its efforts to sort this matter out before it exploded? Furthermore, what does the multiplicity of voices emanating from within the USA mean? What does the fact that the state department can proceed against an important representative of one of your most vital partners, despite misgivings within your own people, mean? How is it that the USA, with its acknowledged abilities, was not able to foretell the Indian response despite having an example in Italy, mean? How can a change of guard-  Bush to Obama, fundamentally alter the nature of an important relationship? How is such a major nation see-sawing in its approach? How is it that a change of one man or a few people, totally alter your approach?
Contrast with India, which has shown a steadiness in approach on Foreign Policy as well as internal economics, despite the many changes it has experienced! Viewed from afar, the Indian approach, one of constancy in one direction, comes across as far more mature, its shortcomings notwithstanding! But what does it state regarding the lone superpower? It does not instill confidence in its internal systems, procedures and processes, for one. Second, the presence of a multiplicity of internal voices, added to the power within one department that can bring a vital partnership almost to an end – raises a serious question for all of us, a question from which we cannot duck. Namely, just who is in control in the USA? 


  • Commendable efforts by the Author and no doubts on that front . It is a bit complex matter as such , and I just wish to submit two select articles which may not have got the attention of the many along with other easily available in the Media .


    Departed Indian Diplomat Confronted US Business Over India’s IP Policy

    Just weeks before being abruptly arrested and strip-searched in New York leading to outrage in her home country, a now-departed Indian diplomat defended India’s position on intellectual property rights. For instance, she took on the powerful US business lobby over India’s controversial approach to intellectual property. “”


    There was another article by Ex IFS – Indian Ambassador ( Pak , Afghan … ) I lost the specific page , but
    I think a site search here will let anyone reach the article as well , many others .



  • Thanks for that – I remember reading that article {the first one}. The second one does not ring a bell… I shall try and search for it. Do drop a comment if you find it; I would be most interested.

    Thanks for the compliments, by the way… hope I deserve them!

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