Gurgaon rape case: Both India, Saudi Arabia are at fault but bilateral ties won't be affected

Two things need to be said about the ongoing issue of a Saudi Arabian career diplomat embroiled in alleged sexual crimes against his two maid servants from Nepal.

One, it is a non-issue in the larger context of India-Saudi Arabia bilateral relations. Two, both sides have botched up very badly and could have managed much better and in a more mature manner.

 Gurgaon rape case: Both India, Saudi Arabia are at fault but bilateral ties wont be affected

Representational image. Reuters

India has asked the Saudi embassy in New Delhi to "cooperate", though it has not come out in public domain yet as to how the Indians want the Saudis to cooperate. But in diplomacy, these things are generally left unsaid.

The only resolution to the unsavoury incident is that Riyadh quietly withdraws the diplomat concerned as India expelling the diplomat is out of question. India cannot afford to do that as Prime Minister Narendra Modi is to embark on an official visit to Saudi Arabia in a few months.

By all accounts, the Saudi diplomat in question, Majid Ashoor, has come out as a bad egg. What saved him is his status of a diplomat which gives him immunity.

So when he can't be proceeded against by Gurgaon police as per provisions of the Vienna Convention and New Delhi can't afford to declare him persona non grata without huge diplomatic costs, the ball is in the Saudi court.

Now to have a comprehensive perspective of this controversy, let us look at the case from the Saudi perspective.

The Saudis have cried foul on two counts and on both these counts, they are right. One, they have taken exception to how the Gurgaon police could enter his house without his or the Saudi embassy's permission; and two, why did the police go to the media unilaterally without first talking about it to the Saudi embassy?

The Gurgaon police argument is that they were not aware that the accused was a diplomat. This speaks volumes about the level of competence of the local police. The police has no credible justification for its acts of omission and commission.

Then, there is the Nepal angle too. The two victims have since returned to Nepal. Till date, there is no official protest about the incident from the Nepal government. This goes in favour of the Saudis.

Since the ball is in the Saudi court, the only face-saving solution, ideal from the viewpoint of both sides, is that Riyadh quietly withdraws the diplomat in question. But this does not suit the Saudis immediately. If they withdraw him now, it would be a corroboration of their guilt.

The Saudis would do that precisely in all probability, but after some time when the heat and dust is over.

The Saudi diplomat case is nothing when compared to the Devyani Khobragade incident which had badly affected India-US bilateral ties because the woman diplomat had been dealt with very shabbily.

But one must remember that Khobragade did not enjoy diplomatic immunity because she was working in a consulate (in New York) and not in the Indian embassy at the time of the incident. Diplomats working in consulates don't get diplomatic immunity because the nature of work in a consulate is commercial, not diplomatic.

In contrast, Majid Ashoor enjoys full diplomatic immunity as he is working with the Saudi embassy in New Delhi since 2012. Therefore, there is nothing much in this case for the two sides to worry about a larger diplomatic fallout.

Updated Date: Sep 13, 2015 16:39:26 IST