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US to withdraw diplomat after India demands expulsion

The US has said it will withdraw one of its diplomats from the American embassy in New Delhi after India demanded the action as part of a diplomatic dispute. The news comes one day after tensions appeared to have cooled.

Responding to a demand from the Indian government, the US State Department said Friday a US diplomat will be leaving India.

The news came hours after New Delhi made the request in what has been the newest escalation in tensions in a month long diplomatic spat over the arrest of an Indian diplomat in New York.

The news comes one day after the US allowed the indicted Indian diplomat at the center of the controversy

to return home

, which many analysts expected to cool tensions.

The two countries have been at odds over India's deputy consul general in New York, Devyani Khobragade, who was arrested last month and charged by a US federal grand jury for fraudulently obtaining a work visa for her Indian housekeeper.

Khobragade allegedly paid her housekeeper in New York just $3.31 an hour, well below the state minimum wage, and lied about the employee's salary in a visa application.

Much of the outrage over the case in India stems from the circumstances of Khobragade's arrest, which was seen as unnecessarily embarrassing and a violation of the courtesies afforded to diplomats the world over. During the time she was detained, Khobragade was strip-searched by US officials and held in a cell with other criminal defendants before being released on bail

Washington had asked New Delhi to waive her diplomatic immunity so she could be prosecuted, but when India denied that request, Washington asked for her departure. As a result, the 39-year-old mother of two was given permission by the US to fly home to India late Thursday.

Since tensions first flared last month, India has made several diplomatic reprisals including curtailing privileges offered to US diplomats and even removing concrete traffic barriers around the US embassy building in New Delhi.

On the American side, US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz postponed a high-level visit due next week to India.

The case has underlined a sentiment in India that the US is not treating the country like a powerful nation. In 2010, President Obama had billed Indian-US relations as a "defining partnership," with the country seen a strategic counterbalance to China in Asia.

hc/kms (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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