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    With the recent Chinese belligerence over air and naval supremacy, the US secretary of state John Kerry has a lot of tofu on his platter. Then, it is really baffling why the US state department is letting a bizarre brawl between an Indian diplomat, her Indian maid and an Indian Attorney of a new York district turn in to a Benghazi like crisis.

    The looming diplomatic crisis is not between any two countries. It is between, as many Americans claim, the oldest and the biggest democratic nations in the world. For any other country, the diplomatic mission to the USA is the most important, whether some countries admit or not. For the USA, the diplomatic mission from India, the biggest democracy, is bound to be vital for the whole idea of the democratic system.

    Then why humiliate the acting head of the Indian mission to the USA, who happens to be a lady, for a six months old dispute with her Indian maid, by public arrest and, reportedly, with cavity search under police custody? Surely, there were better ways to deal with the issue, which has actually sent out a message of utter humiliation to a country of 1.3 billion people. Devyani Khobragade, a medical doctor turned diplomat and acting head of the Indian mission, had this to say about the incident although disputed by US authorities.

    While I was going through it, although I must admit that I broke down many times as the indignities of repeated handcuffing, stripping and cavity searches, swabbing, hold up with common criminals and drug addicts were all being imposed upon me despite my incessant assertions of immunity, I got the strength to regain composure and remain dignified thinking that I must represent all of my colleagues and my country with confidence and pride.

    The predictable reaction from the Indian government has not just opened up an immense sore in the forty years old amity the USA has been trying to build up with a country with a huge population next door to China but has exposed the US mission in Delhi and other Indian cities to Benghazi like vulnerability, in country where terrorist were easily able to strike at the parliament and other famous targets. The treatment of Devyani by the US government has also lead to unprecedented public anger and outrage in India, in the Indian media and social networks which seems to beescalating with the lukewarm reaction from the US government to solve the issue.

    Make no mistake, it is not an election issue.

    Despite the general impression that the Indian outrage is to do with the impending election, and both the ruling UPA and the main opposition BJP have political stake in taking a tough stance against the US on account of national pride, the issue is more fundamental and hurting the Indian psyche.
    In reality not many people in India are familiar with "cavity search" or understand what it involves. That is until Devyani has let the nation know .
    In a country not familiar with people hiding drugs and weapons in body cavities where no police procedure exists for searching of such niches, even strip searching of a woman have connotation to the barbaric denuding of mythological characters, the whole things have only one meaning. Barbaric and utterly humiliating.

    Don't Kill the messenger

    That, such treatment was meted out to a country in which a large majority look at American capitalism and hegemony with suspicion despite an educated section believe in building bridges and cooperation with the US, hasn't gone well at all, no matter any amount of rationalising and justification.
    USA being a nation living on Nike shoes to a million other things made with cheap labour from China and sweat shops from Bangladesh and India, and out sourcing work to India at quarter of the rates, the argument about the wages to an Indian made appear nothing but a farce.

    The US has touched the Indian Caste Nerve.

    To make things worse for John Kerry and the US, Devyani Khobragade happens to belong to a schedule caste, a factor with extremely sensitive socio political implications in India and something which its most outspoken leader, Mayavathi, has already taken on herself to fight for.
    The US State department may be adept at dealing with diplomatic crisis, but certainly not equipped for Indian caste system which many astute Indian leaders find hard to tackle.

    Born an Indian, always an Indian.

    The US Attorney General, Preet Bharara may have political ambitions and a need to prove himself by following Giuliani and Christie by acting tough. But for 1.3 billion Indians, he is just another one of them, no matter what he does in New York, the villain of the piece and someone who is out to harm India.

    The timing couldn't be worse.

    Unfortunately the whole episode of humiliation of one of their folk in a friendly foreign country has coincided with the painful anniversary of the mass rape and murder of a girl, which has shaken the conscience of the country and many abroad.

    John Kerry and the State Department undoubtedly has a crisis of unprecedented gravity at their hands which seems to be escalating by the day. An effort to assess correctly and not underestimate the Indian sensitivities is the need of the day.


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