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HomepoliticsIndian envoy leaving US in deal to calm diplomatic row

Indian envoy leaving US in deal to calm diplomatic row

An Indian diplomat whose arrest and strip-search caused a major rift in U.S.-Indian ties was effectively expelled from the United States on Thursday as part of a deal in which she was granted diplomatic immunity from charges of visa fraud and lying about underpaying her nanny.

Devyani Khobragade, who was deputy consul-general in New York, was arrested December 12 and charged with one count of visa fraud and another of making false statements about how much she paid her housekeeper.

Her arrest set off protests in India amid disclosures that she was strip-searched on the day of her arrest. The dispute soured the broader U.S.-India bilateral relationship, leading to sanctions against American diplomats in New Delhi and the postponement of visits to India by senior U.S. officials and another by a U.S. business delegation.

Khobragade's lawyer Daniel Arshack said she planned to return to India on Thursday night and would leave with her head "held high."

The Consulate General of India building on East 64th Street December 13, 2013 2013 in New York.Stan Honda | AFP | Getty Images

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"She knows she has done no wrong and she looks forward to assuring that the truth is known," he said in a statement.

The planned departure came the same day a grand jury in New York indicted her for visa fraud and making false statements. She had been engaged in plea talks prior to the indictment, prosecutors said in a January 6 court filing.

While both New Delhi and Washington stressed the importance of their bilateral relationship during the crisis, it took weeks of complex wrangling to find a workable solution both sides could live with.

Documents and statements from U.S. officials reveal a dizzying 24 hours in which the State Department granted Khobragade diplomatic immunity, unsuccessfully asked India to waive that immunity and ordered her to leave the country immediately.

According to documents provided by Arshack, the U.S. mission sent a letter to Khobragade on Wednesday granting her diplomatic status as of 5.47 p.m. (2147 GMT) that day.

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India incensed

On Thursday, the Indian mission to the United Nations rejected the State Department's request that her immunity be waived. Then in a diplomatic note, the U.S. mission requested Khobragade's immediate departure from the United States and said it would take steps to prevent her from obtaining a visa in the future. It also said Khobragade, 39, who is married to an American, risked arrest if she tried to return.

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