Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Diplomatic immunity, geopolitical complications: Gurgaon rape accused Saudi diplomat may go scot-free

The Gurgaon Police on Wednesday filed a case against a Saudi Arabian diplomat and ‘unknown persons’ under Sections of gang-rape (376 D), rape (376), unnatural sex (377) and other sections of Indian Penal Code including 342, 323 and 120B (conspiracy). The Ministry of External Affairs has already sought a detailed report from the police.

The case against the Saudi diplomat comes at a delicate time for India-Saudi relations, given that seven Indian nationals are still believed to be missing in an air-strike in Yemen carried out by a Saudi-led alliance. But, with a recently-signed defence agreement  and Saudi Arabia’s extradition of 26/11 plotter Abu Jundal in 2012 (not to mention those who were brought back covertly to India through less orthodox means), New Delhi is unlikely to upset the apple-cart by pushing Riyadh too hard on the prosecution of the diplomat, the gravity of the crime notwithstanding.

The alleged crime occurred in India, and has been charged under the Indian Penal Code. However, with the alleged perpetrator being a Saudi national and the victims Nepali, a spanner may have been thrown into what is already a complicated situation.

While Nepali nationals have often faced hardships in India, this particular case could blow into a three-way diplomatic crisis if not handled sensitively. The Indian MEA is likely to push the Saudis to waive the diplomat’s immunity, but this is likely to be in vain. What is more likely is a situation that sees Riyadh recall the diplomat in question and administer internal punishment.

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