India raises Issue of US Visa to Sangeeta Richard’s Family with John Kerry

New Delhi: During his meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday, Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid raised the issue of the US embassy here spiriting away to New York the husband and children of Sangeeta Richard, the nanny of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade.

The two ministers, who met on the sidelines of the Geneva II talks, discussed India-US relations and the diplomatic spat that was sparked off following the Dec 12 handcuffing and strip-search of Khobragade, then Indian deputy consul general in New York, for alleged visa fraud and underpaying her nanny.

Khurshid, during his talks with Kerry, had “underlined India’s concern over trafficking visas issued to Indian nationals by the US embassy in India”.

Clarifying the point, external affairs ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said Thursday that it related to “visa issues of Indian nationals who are related to people who may have been trafficked.. Our concern is that in a democracy there are established avenues for resolving these issues; Why does a country require to resort to evacuating people from the country to that country.. this was raised by the external affairs minister.”

India had been upset at the absolute secrecy surrounding the visas and tickets issued to Richard’s husband and two children despite a police case pending against the man in a Delhi court. They were flown to New York two days before Khobragade’s arrest.

After Khobragade returned to India, when the US asked that she be told to leave, India in a reciprocal measure asked that a US diplomat who was involved in facilitating the visa and tickets for Richard’s family be asked to return to America.

Kerry and Khurshid also discussed the India-US bilateral ties that have broadened and which both sides consider as important.

Referring to the Khobragade issue, the spokesperson said: “But it is also a fact that in the last few weeks we were faced by a situation that we think should never have happened, and we therefore need to address the issues that relate to that situation.”

Both ministers discussed the importance that is placed on the Indo-US ties and on the “need to resolve matters that have caused us distress and led to stresses in relations in past few weeks,” he said.

During their meeting in Montreux, the two ministers “recognized the need to put in place institutional arrangements to look at all outstanding issues relating to the privileges and immunities of diplomats of both countries so that such issues could be resolved in a timely manner”, said a statement here.