If you thought the Indian anger over the arrest and strip search of one of its female diplomats, Devyani Khobragade, had blown over, think again.
The court rejection of her request to extend the January 13 deadline for an initial hearing, to allow further diplomatic negotiations over her status, is making the lead story on the Times of India site. She has been transferred from the Indian Consulate in New York (which the State Department argues is not an embassy and therefore employees are not full diplomats) to the Indian mission to the UN. The US State department is playing silly buggers over this:
Her paperwork was processed immediately by the United Nations and was sent to the state department on December 20. The process normally takes a few days, but in this case it is into its third week now.India has already withdrawn special airport passes and diplomatic ID cards issued to US diplomats. The Gulf News reports that India is turning up the pressure on US diplomats and granting them only the same immunities their diplomats enjoy in the USA. They are applying the same rule as the US is applying to Khobragade, "immunity is limited to acts performed in the exercise of consular functions".
India has now gone one stage further and ordered the US embassy to close its recreation club.
On Wednesday, the Press Trust of India news agency reported that India ordered the US to stop all “commercial activities” by January 16 at the American Community Support Association club. The club has a restaurant, bar, bowling alley, swimming pool and other amenities.US diplomats will also no longer be immune from traffic offences such as running red lights and illegal parking.
India says the fact that non-diplomats can join the club, at a cost of more than $1,300 (Dh4,774) per year, violates the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
The USA has a roughly $20 billion (2011) trade deficit with India and this article by a CEO of a software company in Boston explains some of the reasons why:
Most American small and medium companies know India as a country for off-shoring software development or call center services, and largely ignore other opportunities to do business in India or partner with Indian companies.
Because U.S. companies do not show much interest in attending the conference, there were only a handful of American companies represented. However, global business moves forward without American participation and I am sure the U.S. missed out on opportunities.The above figure by the way excludes imports to the USA from companies based outside India but owned by companies from India. Range Rover and Jaguar vehicles are both made by companies now owned by Tata, a huge multi-national based in Mumbai. Their North American Chemicals division has its headquarters in New Jersey and a mining operation in the Green River basin in Wyoming. The group's steel operation has had to reconfigure its production in the UK to provide specialist products in imperial measurements for the USA. It's North American subsidiary is based in Schaumburg (Chicago), Illinois.
As a result of the government policies, India’s trade with the second and third world is growing fast. In many cases technology solutions developed in India for the domestic market are better suited for the developing world than leading edge technology from the West. For example, because only a small percentage of the 893 million (that is not a misprint!) mobile users in India owns smart phones, some really creative mobile solutions have been built around SMS technology. These Indian solutions are a much better fit for the developing world than the latest US mobile apps technology.
Just using the (albeit very large) company as an example, you can see the importance of maintaining and building good trade and commercial relations between the USA and India. Tata clearly feel they can "do business" with the UK whereas it appears reluctant to invest in the USA to provide products for the US market. Part of an embassy's trade mission is to promote business between the host and home countries. Without such good relations but with the poor perception of the USA by the ordinary Indians, there is a real risk of a further increase in that trade deficit.