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Steve Lunetta: A diplomatic blunder by U.S.

Posted: January 6, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: January 6, 2014 2:00 a.m.

Inept. The 2014 Merriam-Webster dictionary defines this word as “showing lack of skill or ability: not done well.”
This word seems to accurately describe the current Obama-Kerry State Department.

Now, why would a nice, polite opinion columnist such as myself make such an inflammatory statement?

For those of you who missed it, what amounts to a diplomatic war has been raging between the United States and India over the treatment of an Indian diplomatic employee in New York for the last two weeks.

The diplomat in question, Devyani Khobragade, is officially listed as the deputy consul general for economic, commercial and women’s affairs. And she’s very cute.

This is important. As seems the case with many press stories these days, the prettier, cuter, hotter, buffer, or more photogenic the subject, the more press coverage a story receives.

So what did Ms. Khobragade do? As CNN reports, a maid was hired in India to come and serve in the home of the deputy consul general in New York. It was agreed that the maid, Sangeeta Richard, would be paid a wage of $9.75 per hour, but upon arrival in The Big Apple, was told she would only receive $3.31 per hour.

After investigation, federal agents picked up Khobragade, placed her under arrest, held her in a cell with other women, and strip-searched her. Bear in mind, this is an Indian diplomat.

Inept. What? Did they think she was carrying an AK-47 under her sari?

After the arrest and strip search, the Indian government reacted quite strongly.

U.S. Ambassador Nancy Powell was summoned, diplomatic staff were stripped of identification cards, and the Indian government removed protective barriers that were positioned around the U.S. Embassy in their country.

U.S. State Department staff were reeling. How could such a simple thing cartwheel out of control so rapidly?

Unfortunately, this was not the first time that the Obama State Department was unprepared and incapable of handling an international situation correctly. Benghazi, anyone?

Indian demonstrators outside our embassy in New Delhi carried signs threatening similar treatment for Americans. The Indian press was all too happy to place the beautiful Khobragade on the front page with stories of her abuse at the hands of the U.S. government.

After being thoroughly spanked by the press, Ambassador Powell recently stated that she joins “Secretary Kerry in expressing our regret for the circumstances of the consular officer’s arrest, but we believe that we can look forward to continuing to expand our bilateral relations.”

In other words, She’s sorry but not really that sorry. Wow. To insult a good friend and ally like India is simply shocking.
Let’s disassemble this situation. It is quite possible that Khobragade is completely guilty of the charges that she faces. To “trap” a poor worker like this is reprehensible and she deserves a proper sanction.

But let us recall that she is a diplomat with certain immunities. If the State Department had simply documented her breaking our employment laws, picked her up, revoked her visa, placed her on a plane back to India, and quietly presented the evidence to the Indian government, this thing might have all been handled out of the glare of the media.

But no. We had to publicly embarrass this woman, anger our ally and come out looking like a villain for our handling of the situation. How much worse can this get?

As of this writing, the U.S. government is continuing the investigation against Khobragade while she is released from custody. The Indian government is currently trying to figure out a way to get her out of the country.

Is the underpayment of an employee reprehensible? Of course. But the damage done to our diplomatic relationship with India is far worse.

The myopic and sophomoric approach of the Obama administration in regards to international relations is causing real harm to the United States.

Hopefully, our deep and lasting friendship with India, coupled with the cultural and philosophical ties we share (It is the largest democracy on Earth), will outlast the damage caused by this inept administration.

Maybe we should tell them we are sari.

Steve Lunetta is a resident of Santa Clarita and always pays his employees the minimum wage. Of Sudan. He can be reached at


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