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Millennium Post

India ups ante, but is it too late?

Now that India has turned the tables on America and taken a firm stand siding with the wronged diplomat Devyani Khobragade, it is time to reassess some of our earlier stances on matters equally sensitive and perhaps even more delicate since they directly related to national security. While the ministry of external affairs has put its foot down and transferred Khobragade to India’s permanent mission at UN, so that she could benefit from full diplomatic immunity, the American ‘apology’ over the harshness of treatment meted out to the consul comes across as more of a political afterthought, a cosmetic exercise in damage control. Despite John Kerry’s categorical regret expressed to the National Security advisor Shivshankar Menon, it is obvious that America has been caught off guard, evidently surprised at the usually pusillanimous India’s ‘overreaction’, its excessive umbrage and endeavours to safeguard the interests of a representative in foreign shores, especially when on several previous occasions, it has not shown any spine – be it in letting in excessive FDI in retail, aviation, telecom and other sectors or in allowing relentless and all-pervasive snooping on its embassy staffs, diplomats as well as top bureaucrats and corporates. Whether the pumped up political response was because of the possibility of Narendra Modi coming to power in the centre in 2014 and the need to counter the resultant air of political machismo that emanates from the BJP PM nominee, is another debate. Although, what cannot be disregarded is what all are signified by this sudden coming together of hurt national pride and the need to retaliate the definite breach of Devyani’s right to diplomatic immunity.

Obviously, India’s governmental pride has been hurt (and rightly so) by America’s punitive appartus laying its hand on a woman diplomat’s body. Two governments, two so-called biggest democracies that systematically discriminate against their citizens on the basis on sex, gender, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, skin colour and class, among other incalculable axes of everyday biases, are now at loggerheads over what can be called a violation of a woman/diplomat’s bodily integrity (she was cavity searched, which means her orifices, including the rectal one, were not just touched but ‘rummaged’). India is up in arms, for a change, and not just ‘giving it back’ to its American masters, as it were, but vehemently protesting the unambiguous maltreatment meted out to Devyani Khobragade. This is the same India that went into a supine silence when the revelations on NSA surveillance (including snooping on the consular officials) went public. Then Salman Khurshid actively defended the ‘digital penetration’, the electronic cavity searches that probably have ensured that everyone’s pictures, in various stages of compromise, are nicely housed in American databases, to be wielded whenever Washington needs to shove down  an arms deal or justify yet another deletion of a clause in the nuclear liability bill safeguarding the survival of Indian people. Of course, there is no diplomatic furore when 3,000 people die in a chemical factory accident. A mangled body, even if of a woman, makes little difference to the arbiters of our collective pride, as compared to a definitely racist/unjust/misogynist/sexist ‘routine examination’ of a woman diplomat in the US soil. Of course, this is humiliating, but India has woken up too late.
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