Following the unsubstantiated reports of widespread visa rule violations, perjury and long term Income Tax Act violations by the family members of US diplomats posted in India and other US couples employed in the prestigious American Embassy School in New Delhi along with the American Club, our enquiries with a highly placed source in the Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) have revealed that after considering the sensitivities of the impending cases and to avoid any further diplomatic fall outs, the ministry has already moved secret notes to the Law Ministry and the Finance Ministry proposing to appoint the celebrity New York Public Prosecutor of Indian origin Mr. Preet Bharara (aka Preethinder Singh Bharara) as a Special Public Prosecutor.
If the proposal goes through various ministries and gets a nod, it may be brought before the cabinet for a formal approval to try the current crop of cases involving American diplomats, citizens and institutions run by the US embassy by the newly appointed Special Public Prosecutor Mr Bharara.
The ministry is also in communication with the Finance ministry seeking their opinion to find a sensible way forward to the cases involving extant Income and Commercial Tax frauds purportedly carried out by the American Club run from the US embassy premises and the American Embassy School. It is also reliably learned that the tax violations have been going on for at least for the past fifty or sixty years on the basis of some tax exemptions granted to sixteen teachers in the early Fifties and the Indian authorities have been constantly avoiding any action fearing any diplomatic tussle. The note reportedly inquires about the possibilities of a liberal one-time tax settlement scheme which might help the country to reduce the adverse current account deficits in the current year. According to the current thought processes of the originators of the note, the tax cases may only be allowed to go to the trials with the help of the new Special Public Prosecutor if the Americans fail to settle the cases.
Since the ‘unilateral’ action against the Indian diplomat Ms. Khobragade by the US forced the MEA to enquire about the visa frauds and tax violations by the US embassy and diplomats in India as a bargaining chip, a large number cases have come up to the notice of the ministry and the enraged Indian public at large. As these ‘serious’ cases come up especially before the impending 2014 elections, the ministry is certainly having difficulties to avoid any suitable and sensible action in these sensitive cases. The source further said that the highly placed officials feel themselves placed ‘between devil and the sea’ in the matter. In order to avoid the twin problems of not taking any action against the Americans violators and attracting allegations of being a weak government which appeases the US and taking lawful action and precipitating another diplomatic tussle with the US and consequent widespread negative media in the US, the ministry and its political boss reportedly did a late night brainstorming session which lasted till the morning of 16th. The appointment of Mr. Preet Bharara as the Special Public Prosecutor is the best solution which reportedly evolved out of the just concluded overnight session.
The source stated that India never ever wants to act against the sensibilities of their emerging strategic partner US, especially after the just contained ‘mini crisis’ precipitated by the US State Department action against the Indian diplomat Ms. Devyani Khobragade. The standard operating procedures strictly followed by the US Marshals while arresting Ms. Khobragade which included hand cuffing, cavity searches, fluid swabs and keeping her in holding pens with other arrestees and as applicable to any other arrested US citizen, surprisingly lead to widespread condemnation in India. The Americans were baffled at the Indian response in a clear case of visa fraud, perjury, non-payment of minimum wages to a maid in Manhattan and possibilities of a charge of human trafficking and violence. According to a statement issued then by the New York Prosecutor Preet Bharara which intended to contain the Indian anger and appease them claimed that the very unusual favours of a cup of coffee and allowance of a phone call were accorded to the arrested Indian diplomat Ms. Khobragade considering her special status as a diplomat. He stated that these favours are not accorded to any full-fledged US citizens when they are arrested on similar or serious charges as applicable to the case of Counsellor Khobragade.
The unnamed ministry source further revealed that the Government of India wants to avoid at any cost the kind of criticism it attracted in the American media like the stinging editorial published by the Washington Post on January 8th. In the editorial titled, ”U.S.-Indian cultural, political divide revealed by diplomat’s arrest”, the widely followed and respected Washington Post newspaper, after terming the arrest as a straightforward law enforcement issue, had severely criticized the various Indian actions as “compounding of tensions with high-decibel rhetoric and a vindictive campaign against US diplomats in New Delhi.” The paper termed the Indian actions of “withdrawing the U.S. Embassy’s permit to import alcohol — to the irresponsible — removing security barricades from the street in front of the facility. Employees of embassy officials are being investigated for alleged offenses including working at American schools without proper paperwork” as “bullying to petty measures.” The editorial further said the ‘harassment’ of US diplomats in the name of “reciprocal response, investigations and administrative actions by the government for political ends“ are befitting to the “authoritarian states such as Russia or China but unworthy of a democracy”. The editorial ended wondering whether a country which strips American diplomats of security measures is a “would-be ally.”
According to the source, instructions have been given to India’s embassy at Washington and its consulate at New York to send feelers to the US State Department and the office of the New York prosecutor Mr. Bharara about the new proposals. The Indian ministry feels that the proposals would be welcomed by all the Americans because the trial cases involving US diplomats and citizens would be best handled by their own celebrity Prosecutor strictly following their standard operating procedures of arrest, trial and jail terms thereby avoiding all kind of criticisms in both the democratic nations. Being a person of Indian origin and born in India, Mr. Bharara as the Prosecutor is expected to be widely welcomed by the Indian middle class and the media. While the US government, media and people would certainly love service of American justice to their own diplomats and citizens by their celebrated Prosecutor. However, the source added that some finer points regarding the implementation of the proposal on the ground need to be jointly decided by both the Governments. It seems that India is even prepared to outsource service of justice to the Americans when it is applicable to the US diplomats and citizens to reduce the long pending sentiments of American people against outsourcing to India. As the trial may include innumerable cases, the unemployment in the New York state may decline due to the large scale recruitment by the office of the New York Prosecutor and help the political ambitions of Mr. Bharara.
If the existing proposals are agreed upon and implemented on the ground by the world’s two biggest and greatest democratic nations, it may even create a new benchmark for Government to Government co-operation, diplomacy and law enforcement. However, it remains to be seen whether l’affaire Khobragade leads to a new era of empathy, understanding and co-operation between the nation states!
Benny Avirah reported from New Delhi and Sam Abraham from Washington DC.
Published by Faking News under special arrangement with BBC News.