Skip to main content

U.S. energy secretary's trip to India postponed amid tensions over diplomat

By Jethro Mullen and Kevin Liptak, CNN
January 9, 2014 -- Updated 1116 GMT (1916 HKT)
U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz delivers a speech in Austria in September.
U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz delivers a speech in Austria in September.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: India orders a club at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi to halt commercial activities
  • U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz will no longer visit India next week, an official says
  • The postponement comes amid tensions over the arrest of an Indian diplomat in New York
  • Indian officials have expressed outrage that the female diplomat was strip-searched

(CNN) -- U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz's planned visit to India next week has been delayed, an Energy Department official said Wednesday.

The postponement of the trip comes amid tensions between New Delhi and Washington over the treatment of an Indian diplomat who was arrested in New York last month on charges of fraud and making false statements on a visa application for her former housekeeper.

"I can confirm that Secretary Moniz is no longer traveling to India next week," the Energy Department official said. "We have been in conversation with Indian counterparts about the dates, and we have agreed to hold the dialogue in the near future at a mutually convenient date."

Indian officials expressed outrage last month when news emerged that Devyani Khobragade, the country's deputy consul general in New York, had been strip-searched by U.S. law enforcement officials after her arrest.

India-U.S. relations tense after arrest
U.S. 'regrets' diplomat's strip search
Arrest sparks diplomatic feud

READ: Strip-searched Indian diplomat's attorney accuses U.S. of 'muscle-flexing'

They have demanded that the United States apologize and drop the charges against Khobragade, whose lawyer says she is innocent and entitled to diplomatic immunity.

Amid the uproar over the issue in the local media last month, Indian authorities expressed their displeasure by removing concrete barriers from outside the U.S. Embassy and taking away American diplomats' identification cards.

Moniz's postponed India trip appears to be a high-profile result of the fallout from the dispute.

In another move, Indian authorities ordered the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi to halt commercial activities at a club on its property by January 16, an Indian external affairs official said Thursday.

The official said the multipurpose American club in the embassy compound was being used by nondiplomats, which contravenes an article of the Vienna Convention.

Despite the pressure, U.S. officials say there are no plans to drop the case against Khobragade, who is accused of paying her former housekeeper, Sangeeta Richard, a fraction of the amount promised in the visa application and telling Richard to keep quiet about the situation.

They have said Khobragade is entitled to consular immunity, which is less broad than diplomatic immunity and covers only actions carried out under official duties.

Secretary of State John Kerry expressed "regret" about the situation last month, but stopped short of saying the United States had done anything wrong.

Human rights activists say Indian authorities' anger about Khobragade being strip-searched misses the bigger issue of her alleged wrongdoing with regard to Richard. They say the mistreatment of domestic workers is a widespread and often overlooked problem around the world.

Indian and U.S. officials have repeatedly said that they hope the situation won't undermine relations between the two countries in the long term.

"We place great emphasis on the U.S.-India energy partnership, which is a key element of the overall strategic partnership," the Energy Department official said Wednesday.

The talks between the two sides are aimed at exchanging views "on clean and renewable energy, civilian nuclear energy, regional energy projects, and a host of other topics that are essential to the well-being and prosperity of both our peoples," the official said.

Opinion: India overreacts to diplomat's arrest

CNN"s Harmeet Shah Singh contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
December 21, 2014 -- Updated 1746 GMT (0146 HKT)
The tragic killing of two cops could not have happened at a worse time for a city embroiled in a bitter public battle over police-community relations, Errol Louis says.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 0320 GMT (1120 HKT)
North Korea warns the United States that U.S. "citadels" will be attacked, dwarfing the hacking attack on Sony that led to the cancellation of a comedy film's release.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 0251 GMT (1051 HKT)
The gateway to Japan's capital, Tokyo Station, is celebrating its centennial this month -- and it's never looked better.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 1621 GMT (0021 HKT)
More than 1.7 million children in conflict-torn areas of eastern Ukraine face an "extremely serious" situation, Unicef has warned.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 1322 GMT (2122 HKT)
Boko Haram's latest abductions may meet a weary global reaction, Nigerian journalist Tolu Ogunlesi says.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 1034 GMT (1834 HKT)
Drops, smudges, pools of blood are everywhere -- but in the computer room CNN's Nic Robertson reels from the true horror of the Peshawar school attack.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 0243 GMT (1043 HKT)
The gunman behind the deadly siege in Sydney this week was not on a security watch list, and Australia's Prime Minister wants to know why.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 0948 GMT (1748 HKT)
Bestselling author Marjorie Liu had set her sights on being a lawyer, but realized it wasn't what she wanted to do for the rest of her life.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 2027 GMT (0427 HKT)
CNN's Matthew Chance looks into an HRW report saying Russia has "legalized discrimination against LGBT people."
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 0212 GMT (1012 HKT)
The Sydney siege has brought home some troubling truths to Australians. They are not immune to what are often called "lone-wolf" terror attacks.
Bill Cosby has kept quiet as sexual assault allegations mounted against him, but his wife, Camille, finally spoke out in defense of her husband.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 1431 GMT (2231 HKT)
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT