All diplomats get a Devyani warning; efforts on to cool heat on both sides

Devyani KhobragadeIndian Diplomat Devyani Khobragade. PTI

Indian and American officials launched efforts Friday to find a way out of their diplomatic spat over the alleged mistreatment of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade even as New Delhi alerted its officials in the US, who have Indian domestic helps, to be on their guard.

The moves were in contrast to the strong words from Washington on Thursday evening when the US State Department rejected India's demand to drop visa fraud charges against Khobragade and apologise for allegedly mistreating her, saying the allegations were "very serious" and she would not be allowed to go scot-free.

However, on Friday, after four days of high-decibel protests and muscle-flexing, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid struck a conciliatory note by terming bilateral ties as "valuable" and expressed hope that the two sides will find a "solution". US embassy officials, led by ambassador Nancy Powell, held long meetings with MEA officials after the phone conversation between Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh and US Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman Thursday night.

It is learnt that "specific steps" are being discussed between the two sides after the US State Department distanced itself from US attorney Preet Bharara's tough comments made in connection with the case.

Khobragade, sources said, applied for accreditation to the UN Wednesday evening following her transfer to India's permanent mission there and the UN has to accredit her now.

After the accreditation, the US State Department will be informed about the change in her diplomatic status and the US administration has to issue her its accreditation card, giving her "full diplomatic immunity". However, this entire process is expected to take at least two weeks due to the Christmas break.

The sources also said that Indian officials in the US had been alerted about their domestic helps from India as a precautionary measure because of the apprehension that voluntary groups may try to find more examples of payment disparities.

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