Sunday, December 22, 2013

Preet Bharara's Folly

New York Attorney Preet Bharara’s political ambition is the only satisfactory explanation for why American law enforcement officials chose to publicly humiliate Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade when arresting her for alleged visa fraud on 12 December in New York.

He clearly has such ambition. The second paragraph on the Home page of his office reads:

“Throughout its history, this Office has distinguished itself as one of the nation's premier legal institutions, successfully prosecuting groundbreaking and historic cases. Those who have served in the Southern District include lawyers who have gone on to become United States Senators, Congressmen, Mayors of New York City, Governor of New York, Secretary of War, Secretary of Homeland Security, Secretary of State, Attorney General of the United States, United States Supreme Court Justice, Ambassadors and federal judges, as well as well-respected members of prominent private law firms.”

If India-born Bharara is to ascend to a political post, especially an elected one, he must establish solidly that his only loyalty is to the United States, that his ethnicity and national origin are immaterial.

Bharara has done that with his aggressive pursuit of Devyani for allegedly forging documents inflating the remuneration of her maid. India’s Deputy Consul-General was arrested in front of her child’s school, made to strip at a police station, “cavity searched,” and held in a cell with common criminals. 

But in achieving a personal public relations objective the ambitious New York Attorney might have shot himself in the political foot and done a major disservice to the United States.

The diplomatic incident he created will have far-reaching negative effects on Indo-American relations at a time when the two countries are forging a critically important alliance to safeguard the future of democracy in a world that could easily tip into totalitarianism.

By not moving quietly to have Devyani declared persona non grata – action specifically designed for such situations – he has unnecessarily complicated President Obama’s single most important strategic initiative in foreign affairs, the “pivot to Asia.”

The fact that he did not take into account the repercussions of humiliating an Indian diplomat so brutally when there were a range of other options highlights not Bharara’s singular loyalty to the United States but to his own ambition.

1 comment:

V Balaji said...

This is the most balanced analysis of the case so far. Well done, Mr. Menon!