Major rift with India continues as accused diplmat allowed to leave US

An Indian female diplomat charged with visa fraud and underpaying her nanny, who is at the center of a diplomatic row over her arrest and strip search, has left the country according to Reuters.

An Indian diplomat whose arrest and strip-search caused a major rift in U.S.-Indian ties was effectively expelled from the United States on Thursday as part of a deal in which she was granted diplomatic immunity from charges of visa fraud and lying about underpaying her nanny.

Devyani Khobragade, who was deputy consul-general in New York, was arrested on December 12 and indicted on Thursday by a grand jury for visa fraud and making false statements about how much she paid her housekeeper.

Her arrest set off protests in India amid disclosures that she was handcuffed and strip-searched. The dispute soured the broader U.S.-India bilateral relationship, leading to sanctions against American diplomats in New Delhi and the postponement of visits to India by senior U.S. officials and another by a U.S. business delegation.

A United Nations diplomat familiar with the case said Khobragade had flown out of the United States. In India, the foreign ministry said she was being transferred to a post in New Delhi.

Khobragade's lawyer Daniel Arshack said she would leave with her head "held high."

"She knows she has done no wrong and she looks forward to assuring that the truth is known," he said in a statement.

While both New Delhi and Washington stressed the importance of their bilateral relationship during the crisis, it has taken weeks of complex wrangling to find a workable solution both sides could live with.

Documents and statements from U.S. officials reveal a dizzying 24 hours in which the State Department granted Khobragade diplomatic immunity, unsuccessfully asked India to waive that immunity and ordered her to leave the country immediately.

According to documents provided by Arshack, the U.S. mission sent a letter to Khobragade on Wednesday granting her diplomatic status as of 5.47 p.m. (2147 GMT) that day.

On Thursday, the Indian mission to the United Nations rejected the State Department's request that her immunity be waived. Then in a diplomatic note, the U.S. mission requested Khobragade's immediate departure from the United States and said it would take steps to prevent her from obtaining a visa in the future. It also said Khobragade, 39, who is married to an American, risked arrest if she tried to return.

There were violent anti-American demonstrations in India after it became known that the attractive, 39 year old had been strip searched. The US Marshal Service, who handled the arrest, labeled the search "routine."

In retaliation for Khobragade's forced departure, the Indian government is requesting that the US send one of its diplomats home. No word on whether the state department will accede to that demand, but given all that has transpired, it almost certainly will do as the Indian government asks.

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