NEW DELHI, Jan. 10 (Xinhua) -- In a tit-for-tat move, India Friday asked the United States to withdraw a diplomat from its embassy in the Indian capital, hours after an Indian woman diplomat was indicted in a New York court on charges of visa fraud and making false statements and ordered to leave that country, sources said.
"The American diplomat, who has been asked to be withdrawn from the U.S. Embassy, is of the same rank as of senior Indian envoy Devyani Khobragade who was arrested and strip-searched in New York last year on charges of visa fraud and underpaying her maid. The Indian government believes that the U.S. diplomat was involved in the process relating to the controversy," the sources said.
The former India's deputy consul general in New York is currently on her way to her home country to take up her new role in the Ministry of External Affairs office in the national capital.
"Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade has been accorded full diplomatic immunity and she is currently on her way home," the External Affairs Ministry said earlier in the day, adding that it recently declined a U.S. request to waive her diplomatic immunity to face trial in New York on both the charges which carry a maximum punishment of 15 years in jail.
The woman diplomat, however, reiterated her innocence to the media before taking a flight to the national capital from New York. "I will show my immunity to the court. The court will see that I have diplomatic immunity," said Khobragade, who was shifted to India's Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York after the incident to ensure full diplomatic immunity to her.
But, the charges against 39-year-old Khobragade will remain and she will have to face trial if she returns to the United States without diplomatic immunity, American Attorney Preet Bharara has reportedly said in a letter to District Judge Shira Scheindlin.
"There will not need to be an arraignment on the indictment scheduled at this time. We understand that the defendant was very recently accorded diplomatic immunity status," he wrote.
Khobragade's arrest triggered a diplomatic row between India and the United States. While New Delhi claims her arrest was illegal according to Vienna Convention, the United States insists she did not have full diplomatic immunity as a consular official at the time.
As a retaliatory move, India had downgraded privileges of U.S. diplomats posted in this country and removed security barricades outside the U.S. embassy in the national capital, apart from asking it to stop commercial activities and shut down a club on the embassy premises.