A crucial energy security dialogue between US and India that was supposed to take place in India this month has been postponed due to tensions between the two nations over the arrest and departure of diplomat Devyani Khobragade. Ernest Moniz, the United States Secretary of Energy who was supposed to visit India next week, is postponing his trip to a “mutually convenient date,” which is still to be determined. The Americans indicated the postponement was a joint decision. However, Indian officials claim that it was the US’s idea to postpone the meeting. Indian Joint Secretary for the Americas, Vikram Doraiswamy, told US ambassador Nancy Powell earlier this week that with the Khobragade issue still unresolved, diplomatic relationships between the US and India cannot follow their usual pattern.
On December 11, 2013, Devyani Khobragade, then the Deputy Consul General of the Consulate General of India in New York City, was charged by U.S. authorities with committing visa fraud and providing false statements in order to gain entry to the United States for Sangeeta Richard. Khobragade wanted to hire Richard as a domestic worker for in New York. On Thursday, December 12, US prosecutors issued a 20-page indictment that accuses Khobragade of creating a fake employment contract for her housekeeper and nanny Sangeet Richard that claimed she would be paid $9.75 an hour for 40 hours of work a week. Khobragade was arrested the next day by U.S. federal law enforcement authorities and was then subjected to a humiliating and unnecessary search of her body cavities, which is also known as a “strip search.” After her release, Khobragade wrote an email to her colleagues in the Indian Foreign Service and complained that she “broke down many times,” due to “the indignities of repeated handcuffing, stripping, and cavity searches,” and to being held “with common criminals and drug addicts.” In India, much media attention has been devoted to her arrest and treatment, and the legal actions taken against Khobragade are widely criticized by most of the media sources. The Indian government denounced her arrest, outside her daughter’s school, as “barbaric.” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh described the diplomat's treatment as “deplorable.” “No American diplomat would have been treated like that in India,” said Suhasini Haidar, host of a popular Indian cable television news show.
In the beginning of January, the US requested a waiver of immunity for Devyani Khobragade. India denied that request. The US then requested her departure. On January 9, 2014, Khobragade left the United States by plane to India. That same day she was indicted by a federal grand jury with visa fraud and making false statements
Although Khobragade was arrested for a reason, and although the incident of fraud and false statement has been proven, the fact that she was arrested despite the immunity that she has as a diplomat led to a major diplomatic standoff between India and the United States. The unnecessary strip search that the Khobragade had to go through, although she was accused of fraud and not of smuggling, added even more tension to the issue given the humiliating aspect of the incident. While a more convenient date for the energy security meeting is still to be agreed upon, the further development of US-India relations has been put under question.