Washington: The Obama administration is focused on moving Indo-US relationship forward, a senior US official said, even as the paperwork on transfer of senior Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade to India's UN mission is under review.
"What we're focused on at the State Department is moving forward with the bilateral relationship," State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf said yesterday.
She said the legal process against Khobragade is separate from the diplomatic process.
"We are focused on moving this relationship forward, working together on all the issues we work together on all the time. That's certainly what our focus has been here," Harf said.
"We talk to them about how to move the bilateral relationship forward. The Southern District of New York and the Department of Justice are in charge of the legal aspect," she added.
A 1999-batch IFS officer, Khobragade, India's Deputy Consul General in New York, was arrested on charges of making false declarations in a visa application for her maid Sangeeta Richard. She was released on a USD 250,000 bond.
The 39-year-old diplomat was strip-searched and held with criminals, triggering a row between the two sides with India retaliating by downgrading privileges of certain category of US diplomats among other steps last month.
Harf said the US is still reviewing the paperwork of Khobragade with regard to her transfer to the Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations.
"We received it on December 20th. It's under review. We can't predict when that review will be complete and can't compare it to previous requests because each is different and we evaluate each on their own merits," she said.
"The legal process is separate, so obviously the Department of Justice and the Southern District of New York are handling those discussions. We think it's important right now for there to be space for these private diplomatic conversations to continue. We obviously are committed to working with the Government of India on a way forward," Harf said.
Harf said that US Secretary of State John Kerry and other senior US officials have expressed regret over the incident and they want to move forward.
"Today, (US Ambassador to India Nancy) Powell is in Hyderabad for a number of official events, including meeting with business leaders and participating in a clean water event. I think her trip is just one example, but it shows how much we and India are both focused on the way forward," she said.
Harf said the US is in constant conversation with the Government of India on this issue. The Government of India is having discussions with the official of the Justice Department, which would be considered diplomatic discussions, she said.
"But that's certainly their ballgame, not ours," she added.
"We continue to review and discuss all of the Government of India's requests for action, and we're working closely with them on these issues," the spokesperson said.