Raymond Allen Davis was an employee in a private firm and a contractor with the CIA in Pakistan. He was an ex-US Army man. Note: He wasn’t a diplomat and wasn’t even remotely something like a Deputy Consul General that Devyani Khobragade is.
On January 27, 2011, Davis shot two armed men dead with his pistol in Lahore. What followed was an all-out cover up by the American authorities and an attempt to get him out of Pakistan. Matters were complicated when multiple ID cards were recovered from his vehicle along with a camera full of photographs indicating he may have been a spy.
The Americans claimed full diplomatic immunity for him and went out of their way to ensure that he wouldn’t go on trial in Pakistan. Working against a strong local furore and resistance, they finally paid a whopping $2.4 million blood money and secured his release.
ISI later claimed that Davis knew the men he killed making it a case of murder and not a random killing. Interestingly it was also claimed that the families of the two killed have gone missing!
Then there’s the case of Joshua Walde. He was a low-level diplomat in Kenya who was overspeeding in his SUV and he crashed into a bus killing one person and injuring 8 just a few months back. The dead man left behind a pregnant wife. As a result of this incident he had his entire family face financial ruin.
Not only did the US ferry out Walde and his family, but they refused to pay financial assistance to the family claiming diplomatic immunity!
What this basically means is that no matter what an American does outside the borders even if it is murder or spying or any other crime that you can think of, non-Americans have absolutely no right to try him and he must come home!
The Americans use all the tricks in the trade from money power to military clout to blackmail to subterfuge to secure the release of “their criminal”.
India in contrast couldn’t care much less. Former President Abdul Kalam is frisked and that’s OK by the government because he was made President by the rival NDA government. A token protest and a token apology will do quite fine.
Baba Ramdev faces problems in London and that’s OK too because he is a Baba and hence RSS and hence deserves what’s happening to him.
The problem is that even non-politicians may be singled out and face problems during security like Forbes billionaire and Wipro chief Azim Premji along with Bollywood superstar Shahrukh Khan.
America is the golden land and everyone wants to go there and the Indian government couldn’t be bothered to stop Indians being harassed.
There’s also the case of Krittika Biswas a mere high school student in New York who was handcuffed and made to spend more than 24 hours in jail for cyber bullying. Her father happened to be vice-consul. But then diplomatic immunity is only for American families.
The problem is that the Government of India has never expressed outrage in any of their incident and the US has only got bolder and bolder and that led to the eventual humiliation of Devyani. But it is high time that India took American double standards head on.
Basically what the Americans have said is that a non-diplomat like Davis has diplomatic immunity for murder and a diplomat like Devyani doesn’t have diplomatic immunity for underpaying! This attitude has to go.
In the light of that, what the current government is doing is spot on. All special privileges have been stripped from American diplomats and that is a welcome move. (What they were doing with those privileges in the first place when our diplomats are treated like dirt is also a topic of discussion.)
Removing the special barricades in front of the American embassy is also a huge symbolic step and should be welcomed. For a change our excessively mild (towards the US that is, not towards his political opponents who he thinks it fit to threaten) Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid is talking tough and should be congratulated.
Now that we have emerged stronger in Stage 1, what happens in the next stage is much more important. Back channel diplomacy is going on and the Americans will be looking for a face saving compromise.
But the Indians shouldn’t back down. They should not stop short of an unconditionally apology and dropping of all charges. And even after that they should make it clear that they will not tolerate such nonsense in the future.
The future of Indian pride in the international arena depends on that!
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