The United States said Friday it was withdrawing a diplomat from India in hopes it would end a bitter dispute that started with the arrest and body search of an Indian diplomat in New York.
Washington’s announcement that it was complying with a demand from New Delhi came hours after Devyani Khobragade, India’s deputy consul general in New York, left the U.S. The 39-year-old is accused of exploiting her Indian-born housekeeper by having her work more than 100 hours a week for low pay and lying about it on a visa form.
In an apparent compromise, she was indicted by a federal grand jury but also granted immunity that allowed her to leave the U.S. Khobragade arrived in New Delhi on Friday, where she left the airport through an exit not accessible to the public.
Many believed Khobragade’s return would give both countries a way to save face. India, however, asked the U.S. on Friday to withdraw a diplomat, and the State Department said it was complying, although with “deep regret.”
Requesting the recall of a diplomat is a serious, and fairly unusual, move that sends a message that India doesn’t accept the legitimacy of the indictment.
Given the strategic partnership between India and the U.S. and more than $100 billion in trade, any further escalation in the case would not be in the interest of either country, analysts said.
India also unleashed a steady stream of retaliatory measures. Some were seen as petty, but others raised alarm, including removing barriers around the U.S. Embassy and revoking ID cards.
“It’s a shame this came to the fore over one individual,” said Lalit Mansingh, a former Indian ambassador to the U.S. “It sends the message that we’re touchy about personal integrity, rather than about issues of global importance.”