NEW YORK — The world’s two most populous democracies with bilateral trade of $100 billion a year are witnessing an escalation of their worst row in years as Indian diplomat accused of lying about how much she paid her housekeeper has been indicted in New York City.
Devyani Khobragade is charged with visa fraud and making false statements in a case that has triggered an outcry in India. Federal prosecutors announced her indictment Thursday.
Indian diplomat who strip searched by the security officials is accused of fraudulently obtaining a work visa for her New York City housekeeper.
In a letter to the judge, prosecutors say she has been given diplomatic immunity status and left the United States on Thursday.
The letter says the charges will remain pending until she can be brought to court to face them, either through a waiver of immunity or her return to the U.S. without immunity status.
Amid rising diplomatic tensions, it was announced on Wednesday that US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz would not go on an official visit to India, which had been scheduled for next week and had been considered a high priority event.
India meanwhile ordered the cessation of any commercial activities on the territory of the US Embassy compound in New Delhi by January 16. That would erase from the city map the club that for decades has served as a social networking place for Americans working in India.
These have been the latest episodes in the diplomatic stand-off the Indian media described as the worst since New Delhi’s 1998 nuclear tests.
The crisis in Indian-US relations was sparked by last month’s arrest, handcuffing and strip-search of India’s deputy consul in New York, Devyani Khobragade. She is accused by prosecutors of paying her housekeeper less than the US federal minimum wage, and of lying about the fee in her visa application.
Khobragade allegedly paid her maid three times less then was stated in the documents she filed to the US State Department.
The arrest and the strip search part of it in particular caused outrage among Indian politicians, who believe that a woman representing their country was insulted by law enforcers.