(Adds details from statement, context; lawyer for diplomat;
* U.S. says talks with Indian ambassador "productive"
* State Department says both sides committed to moving
* "Past several weeks have been challenging"
By David Brunnstrom and Lesley Wroughton
WASHINGTON, Jan 14 A senior U.S. diplomat met
India's ambassador to the United States on Tuesday with the aim
of getting bilateral ties back on track after the arrest and
strip search of a female Indian diplomat and tit-for-tat
Deputy Secretary of State William Burns hosted a
"productive" lunch meeting with Indian Ambassador S. Jaishankar
and both sides affirmed the importance of the U.S.-India
strategic partnership and "discussed initial preparations for a
range of upcoming bilateral meetings and exchanges," a statement
from the U.S. State Department said.
"They agreed that the past several weeks have been
challenging, and affirmed that we are both committed to moving
forward to resume cooperation on the broad range of bilateral
issues," the statement said.
The two officials also discussed matters raised by India's
Foreign Ministry during the dispute, including alleged issues
with the American Embassy School, the statement said. Burns said
Washington took the concerns "very seriously and will continue
to address them via appropriate diplomatic channels."
The statement said both Burns and Jaishankar "affirmed our
shared commitment to continue joint U.S.-India work on issues
such as clean energy and climate change, defense, economic and
trade engagement, counterterrorism, and civil nuclear
On Saturday, India blamed the United States for what it
called a "mini crisis" over the arrest and strip search of its
deputy consul general in New York last month and said more work
was needed to repair ties.
The Indian diplomat, Devyani Khobragade, 39, was arrested in
December on charges of visa fraud and lying to U.S. authorities
about what she paid her housekeeper. Her treatment provoked
protests in India and dealt a serious blow to U.S. efforts to
TIT FOR TAT
India sharply curbed privileges offered to U.S. diplomats in
retaliation and asked Washington on Friday to withdraw a
diplomat from New Delhi in response to Khobragade's effective
expulsion from the United States last week.
As part of its measures, India last week ordered the U.S.
Embassy to close a club for expatriate Americans in New Delhi
and a government source said it was also preparing to take steps
against the embassy school, which it suspected may be employing
some staff in violation of visa requirements.
The dispute also led to the postponement of two high-level
visits by U.S. officials, including one by Energy Secretary
On Tuesday, a lawyer for Khobragade asked a U.S. judge to
throw out the charges against her, arguing that her diplomatic
status, granted by the State Department last week as part of a
deal that saw her leave the country, gave her absolute immunity
from prosecution, even for incidents that allegedly occurred
before her accreditation. [ID:nL2N0KO19X}
If Judge Shira Scheindlin were to dismiss the indictment,
that would presumably permit Khobragade, whose husband and
children are U.S. citizens, to travel freely to the United
States. State Department officials have said they do not believe
her immunity is retroactive.
Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid said on the weekend
the United States should have warned senior officials visiting
Washington a day before Khobragade's arrest. He added, however,
that the core of the U.S.-Indian relationship was very strong
and that he did not expect lasting damage from what has turned
into the biggest rift in years.
The two countries cooperate on a wide range of issues
including counterterrorism, regional security and defense. India
is also a major market for U.S. weapons.
(Additional reporting by Joseph Ax in New York; Editing by Ken
Wills, Peter Cooney and Eric Walsh)