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Will India now act against gay US diplomats?

New Delhi, Dec 17 (IANS) With the Supreme Court once again criminalising same-sex relationships under the Indian Penal Code (IPC), will the Indian government now take action against self-declared gay American diplomats who have sought diplomatic immunity for their same-sex partners?

With India threatening more actions against US diplomats until Washington renders an “unconditional apology” over the mistreatment of an Indian diplomatic official in New York, there is talk in official circles of invoking Section 377 of the IPC to book these diplomats and their partners under Indian laws, well informed sources confirmed to IANS.

Diplomatic relations between countries are governed under the Vienna Convention for Diplomatic Relations and the Vienna Convention for Consular Relations under the principle of reciprocity. So when a country is seen to act against the Conventions against a country’s diplomats or embassy, the other country is well within its right to take reciprocal measures against the country.

Officials said the Indian government has in its knowledge many such American diplomats who have declared they had same-sex relationships and have sought immunity and other diplomatic facilities for their partners.

“We know who they are and, if we want, we can take action against them under Indian laws,” said one source with access to official thinking, not wishing to be named because of the delicate nature of the issue involved.

“But the fact remains that, under the law of the land, these are now illegal relationships and hence these people can be subject to criminal prosecution for which they do not enjoy diplomatic immunity,” the source told IANS.

Officials, especially those who have dealt closely with the US, said Washington only understands tough language and gave the example of how the US suddenly withdrew certain tax privileges to Indian diplomats about 10 years ago. In retaliation, India imposed service tax liabilities on the US embassy operations here.

When the US embassy petitioned the government against the tax, they were told it could only be done if the tax privileges to Indian diplomats were restored. The US subsequently restored those privileges and New Delhi followed suit.

The latest diplomatic fracas escalated after Devyani Khobragade, the deputy consul general in New York, was arrested, handcuffed and humiliatingly strip searched, under what the US police calls its “standard procedures” after she was found to violate visa regulations for her Indian househelp.

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