Over the past week, I have been reading and watching pundits in India, the US, and among Indian NRIs, come out taking the viewpoint that the US is somehow taking up the cudgels on behalf of the weak and disaffected on this case. And if there is a fault, it’s somehow about how the ‘diplomatic passport holder was treated’.

I think that’s a load of crap. In reality it is highly unlikely if the charges will even hold up in any court in the world. Now it turns out that the salary claimed to be due to the employee seems to be pretty much the same as that of the the diplomatic staffer. And even if it does turn out to be a technical violation of US laws, let us understand that at the very outset, this is NOT a case of human trafficking and the US is certainly not on a moral high ground. The person in question was an Indian passport holder, working on Indian territory, with a valid contract which had seen scrutiny from the Delhi High court. By poking its nose in this arrangement, the US is simply inviting Indian retaliation by checking into salaries paid in American institutions in India. Let’s hope for their sake that American citizens aren’t breaking any rules in India since their diplomatic immunity has now been downgraded to Indian levels.

Circumstances

In fact, there are circumstances around the case that Indians are perfectly right to be alarmed about. Take for instance, US consulate in India spiriting away (at US cost) the litigant’s family before the diplomat was actually arrested. Problems with this particular decision are many, but foremost: 1) They found time to play these games, but couldn’t show India the courtesy of information about this looming problem, and 2) If Sangeeta Richard’s husband had contacts inside the US embassy, then this raises fundamental questions about propriety and motivations. Having lived in the States in the past for a fairly long time, it seems very unlikely to me that a Mexican laborer in the States would get the luxury of having his family spirited over with readymade green cards for a similar complaint. AND the said Mexican laborer would probably not be living in comfort in a Manhattan apartment with everything paid for by the employer and treated as part of the family by the employer in the first place. 

Let’s face it, the litigant has successfully gamed the US immigration system, by getting a GC not only for herself but also for her family. If anything, this is an abuse of the T1 visa program which is intended for genuine cases of human traficking. The US remains perhaps the most desirable place to live and work in, worldwide, notwithstanding the 2008 crisis and has long dealt with underhanded tactics to obtain visas. In this particular case, it’s simply a perfect storm of one such aspiring immigrant and unscrupulous attorneys supported by a lot of misguided activism.

It must be said though that if there has been a precedent set of false cases generating settlement money from Indian embassy staffers (do your own research), MEA is certainly to blame for not seeing this coming.

Treatment of diplomatic staffers

One thing that has totally escaped the attention of the US media is that India has been irritated for many years about the way the US treats its employees working in the embassies there. The Krithika Biswas case was a particularly horrendous and malicious warning signal that MEA seems to have not forgotten. In the mean time American embassy officials and their families enjoy privileges in India that go well beyond what the Vienna convention allows for. What India is doing as a first step here, is setting up a principle of reciprocity, which surely the US cannot have complaints about. At this point, the state department should just hope that this wasn’t as big a screw up from law enforcement as it seems to be at the moment.

 Now watch for the repercussions, most of which will directly hurt US interests, while doing exactly nothing for tackling the real problem of controlling human trafficking globally.