Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Sanity Makes an Appearance

India is finally relaxing a bit over their reaction to the issue of their diplomat paying wages too low for our laws. It was never an issue of US-Indian relations for us.

This is a welcome approach by India's ambassador to the United States:

Jaishankar said India was "perplexed" by the decisions of U.S. authorities to arrest and strip-search 39-year-old Devyani Khobragade, India's deputy consul in New York, after she was accused of visa fraud and underpaying her maid.

"There was a fair measure of anger about both the substance of the problem and the way it was handled," he said. "It was not just done publicly; frankly it was done appallingly."

But Jaishankar, who arrived in Washington in December after serving as Indian ambassador to China, played down the impact on the practical side of the relationship - emphasizing that the two sides were still talking despite the postponement of two high-level U.S. visits this month, including one by U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.

"Frankly, it's probably the most important relationship," he said. "We are not holding up business, or Pentagon dealings, or congressional dealings ... or science programs and saying, 'They don't get done until things get sorted out.'"

Yes, our relationship is very important. I was perplexed that India was making this a matter of state and retaliating against our diplomats.

We certainly didn't want the incident to affect our relationship. India may have taken this as an insult to India that must have some state purpose, but it was always about an employee being abused by an employer.

We have certain national traits (I'm speaking generalities here, and not a template for all attitudes all of the time) of rooting for the underdog, refusing to bow to so-called superior classes, and sensitivity to fairness in how people are treated. All of these were triggered by the incident in question.

Yes, we could have handled it in a more low key manner. But India should have responded in a more low key manner, too. We have bigger issues to discuss--as the Indian ambassador's previous posting should make obvious--than wrangling over a pay dispute of an Indian diplomatic employee.

UPDATE: Thanks to Stones Cry Out for the link.

Let's move on. I know at the start of the Obama administration, relations with India were "tainted" by being a product of George W. Bush's efforts, but the Oval Office has moved beyond that. Right? I've certainly read nothing to that effect and so give the administration the benefit of the doubt on this.