January 10, 2014 | By Sikh Siyasat Bureau
London, United Kingdom (January 10, 2014): The Sikh Federation (UK) has urged Sikhs across the globe to increase interaction with US embassies and advised US-based Sikh organisations in particular to take full advantage of the worsening diplomatic dispute between the US and India in the run up to general elections due in India in four months, and mid-term elections in the United States in November.
India is still furious with the arrest, handcuffing and strip search of Devyani Khobragade, its deputy consul in New York last month accused by prosecutors of underpaying her nanny and lying on a visa application. India is stepping up pressure ahead of the 13 January court appearance where Khobragade could be indicted.
In the most recent tit-for-tat India reacted by curtailing privileges offered to US diplomats. It ordered the US embassy in Delhi to stop receiving non-diplomats at an embassy club popular with expatriate Americans for its swimming pool, restaurant and bar.
The US ambassador in Delhi can now be subjected to airport frisking, and most consular staff have reduced levels of immunity. Concrete barriers were removed from a road near the US embassy last month, apparently in retaliation for the loss of a parking spot for the Indian ambassador in Washington. India is also preparing to take steps against the embassy school, which it suspects may be employing some staff in violation of visa requirements.
Nearly a month on, the dispute has started to affect the wider relationship between the countries, with two high-level visits by US officials postponed. US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Nisha Desai Biswal has delayed her first visit to India, which was due on 6 January, to avoid becoming embroiled in the dispute. Yesterday an official of the US Energy Department said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz would no longer travel to India as planned next week, the most serious repercussion yet in the row over Khobragade’s arrest. Mr Moniz was due in Delhi for talks to promote trade and investment in the energy sector, including discussions of civil nuclear trade between India and the US.
Bhai Amrik Singh, the Chair of the Sikh Federation (UK), said the organisation had written to Mathew W. Barzun, the US Ambassador in London to ask for a meeting and continued:
‘This dispute has highlighted what appear to be permanent fault lines between the two countries. The diplomatic row is spinning out of control.’
‘For 50 years Indian officials have seen the US as an adversary. The 10 year strategic partnership experiment between the countries may be coming to an end as Indian officials are convinced Washington sees India as a threat.’
‘There remains a huge amount of mistrust with Indian officials still not convinced Washington is a reliable ally instead preferring to be a close partner of the Soviet Union. India has also failed to deliver the US support on issues such as Iran or Afghanistan.’
‘Sikh organisations across the globe should be increasing interaction with US embassies in countries like Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Australia and New Zealand.’
‘In the US Sikh organisations are already making the right noises to the US Government, but should also be talking to the powerful US corporate lobby that is frustrated with increasing friction over trade as India is not giving enough commercial access to US businesses and “unfair” imports from India. In June, more than 170 US lawmakers signed a letter to President Barack Obama about Indian policies they said threatened US jobs.’
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