The face-off over diplomat Devyani Khobragade is not the first time India and the US have had tensions over such an issue. In 1981, India had refused to accept a US diplomat because of his “intelligence connections” and in retaliation, the US barred an Indian diplomat from coming to Washington.
In September 1981, India had decided against accepting the diplomat, George G.B. Griffin, as political counsellor “after a careful evaluation of his activities during his various postings in India and the subcontinent”.
Griffin, who had been number two in the US embassy in Kabul, had also served in the US consulate in then Calcutta during the 1971 India-Pakistan war that led to the creation of Bangladesh.
He had been assigned to the embassy in New Delhi in 1981. But India refused to accept his posting. Then prime minister Indira Gandhi, answering queries, had said: “We had information that the person (Griffin) was connected with the intelligence services” of the US.
In retaliation, the US barred the appointment of Prabhakar Menon, a career diplomat, as India’s political officer at its embassy in the US.
The stand-off had led to tensions in India-US relations. Then external affairs minister P.V. Narasimha Rao had acknowledged that the episode had led to “a temporary phase of bitterness” creeping into the bilateral relations.
Rao had said India objected to the posting of Griffin after “a careful evaluation of his activities when he was posted in Calcutta”.
The US State Department had said that the decision was unwarranted and had come at a time “when Mr. Griffin had been a target of a Soviet disinformation campaign”.
The then Indian spokesperson had denied that outside views had a bearing on the Indian government decision and added: “Any such conclusion or insinuation is resented by the Government of India.”