US diplomat to leave Delhi embassy amid Khobragade row

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Devyani Khobragade with her father, Uttam, (right) on arrival back in Delhi, 10 JanImage source, Reuters
Image caption,
Devyani Khobragade with her father, Uttam, (right) on arrival back in Delhi

The US has confirmed that an American official will leave its embassy in Delhi at India's request, amid a diplomatic row.

The US state department said it deeply regretted the move and hoped that it would bring closure to the case.

The row erupted after Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade was arrested in New York on charges of visa fraud and underpaying her housekeeper.

She was asked to leave and arrived back in Delhi on Friday evening.

'Filled with joy'

The state department said it now hoped India would return to constructive ties with the US.

Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said: "We deeply regret that the Indian government felt it was necessary to expel one of our diplomatic personnel.

"This has clearly been a challenging time in the US-India relationship. We expect and hope that this will now come to closure and the Indians will take significant steps with us to improve our relationship and return it to a more constructive place," she said.

The expelled diplomat has not been named.

Sources told Agence France-Presse that the individual was of similar rank and had been involved in the Khobragade case.

India had demanded an apology after Ms Khobragade, 39, was handcuffed and strip-searched following her arrest last month. It refused to waive her immunity.

Ms Khobragade has always denied any wrongdoing.

On Thursday she was indicted by a US federal grand jury in Manhattan, but was also granted immunity by US officials, paving the way for her to return to India.

She arrived back in the Indian capital at about 22:30 (17:00 GMT) on Friday.

Media caption,

Spokesperson Jen Psaki: "This has clearly been a challenging time in the US-India relationship"

Her father, Uttam Khobragade, said: "We are very relaxed and happy that she is back home. We are filled with joy."

He added: "We are overwhelmed by the country's support."

Ms Khobragade was arrested after a complaint from her maid, Sangeeta Richard.

She in turn accused Ms Richard of theft and attempted blackmail.

Delhi said it was "shocked and appalled" at the manner of her arrest, and ordered a series of diplomatic reprisals against the US.

Security barricades around the US embassy in the capital were removed and a visiting US delegation was snubbed by senior Indian politicians and officials.

On Wednesday, the embassy was ordered to stop "commercial activities on its premises". India also said that embassy cars could be penalised for traffic offences.

The embassy has been told to shut down a club within its premises which includes a pool, restaurant and tennis court, NDTV news channel said.