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School in India Ensnared in U.S. Diplomatic Spat
New York times ^

Posted on 01/16/2014 8:05:05 PM PST by cold start

NEW DELHI — A handout for new teachers at this city’s exclusive American Embassy School, an academic oasis for children of American diplomats and other expatriates, offers some unusual guidance to female teachers whose husbands will also be teaching at the school.

“The female spouse should not state that she will be working,” the handout states, instructing spouses to list their occupation on visa applications as “housewife,” adding that “no sexism is intended on our part.”

That advice, which top Indian officials say is illegal, has ensnared the American school, a cherished institution among foreigners living here, in a growing diplomatic spat between India and the United States that began last month with the arrest in New York of Devyani Khobragade, an Indian consular official, on charges of visa fraud and making false statements in connection with her employment of a domestic worker.

...Paul Chmelik, the school’s top administrator, refused to comment on Tuesday about the visa issue with the Indian government. Expecting an article in The New York Times, Mr. Chmelik emailed parents on Wednesday warning that “there could be a goodly number of members of the media present around the perimeter of the school during the course of the school day today and Thursday and Friday.”

“So you know,” he continued, “the article will most likely focus on the degree to which the school has complied with various government regulations.”

...the visa instructions listed on the teachers’ handout were “clearly a violation of tax law.”

The handout notes that India has placed restrictions on the number of tax-free visas available to school employees. “So, if you are a teaching couple,” the handout says, “we usually have the male spouse apply for the ‘employment’ visa and the female spouse be noted as ‘housewife’ on the visa application.”

(Excerpt) Read more at nytimes.com ...


TOPICS: Foreign Affairs; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: india; us

1 posted on 01/16/2014 8:05:05 PM PST by cold start
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To: cold start

Indian school ensnared in US diplomatic row

A handout for new teachers at this city’s exclusive American Embassy School, an academic oasis for children of U.S. diplomats and other expatriates, offers some unusual guidance to female teachers whose husbands will also be teaching at the school.

“The female spouse should not state that she will be working,” the handout states, instructing spouses to list their occupation on visa applications as “housewife,” adding that “no sexism is intended on our part.”

That advice, which top Indian officials say is illegal, has ensnared the American school, a cherished institution among foreigners living here, in a growing diplomatic spat between India and the United States that began last month with the arrest in New York of Devyani Khobragade, an Indian consular official, on charges of visa fraud and making false statements in connection with her employment of a domestic worker.

The arrest and her resulting strip-search shocked the Indian diplomatic corps and generated about as much outraged commentary in the Indian news media as the beheading last year of an Indian soldier on a disputed border with Pakistan.

Since the arrest, Indian diplomats have peppered U.S. officials here with a blizzard of questions and demands in the hope of uncovering similar violations by U.S. diplomats. The police removed security barriers in front of the U.S. Embassy here and stopped many diplomats’ cars and cited them for minor traffic violations such as having tinted windows. Many of the moves and queries have been quietly shrugged off by U.S. officials.

But questions about the school have sent a deep shudder through the expatriate community here. The school, which is next to the U.S. Embassy on land owned by the U.S. government, has a swimming pool, tennis courts and vast athletic fields. Its stone classroom buildings and generous libraries could grace an Ivy League campus. Its price tag - around $20,000 a year - rivals that of some of New York City’s top private schools. A small army of uniformed security men patrol its perimeter.

Paul Chmelik, the school’s top administrator, refused to comment Tuesday about the visa issue with the Indian government. Expecting an article in The New York Times, Chmelik emailed parents Wednesday warning that “there could be a goodly number of members of the media present around the perimeter of the school during the course of the school day today and Thursday and Friday.”

“So you know,” he continued, “the article will most likely focus on the degree to which the school has complied with various government regulations.”

Hours earlier, the State Department in Washington released a statement that the deputy secretary of state, William J. Burns, had hosted the Indian ambassador, S. Jaishankar, for a lunch meeting at which they discussed “the variety of issues raised by the Ministry of External Affairs via diplomatic note, including alleged issues with the American Embassy School.”

“Deputy Secretary Burns conveyed that we take their concerns very seriously and will continue to address them via appropriate diplomatic channels,” the statement said.

False rumors have swirled through the school in recent days of vast teacher dismissals, and Nancy J. Powell, the U.S. ambassador to India, addressed a special meeting Tuesday afternoon of school faculty and staff members. About a third of the school’s nearly 1,500 students are from the United States, another 20 percent are from South Korea and the rest come from dozens of other countries. The students include many children of foreign diplomats, executives and journalists.

Syed Akbaruddin, a spokesman for the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, said the visa instructions listed on the teachers’ handout were “clearly a violation of tax law.”

The handout notes that India has placed restrictions on the number of tax-free visas available to school employees. “So, if you are a teaching couple,” the handout says, “we usually have the male spouse apply for the ‘employment’ visa and the female spouse be noted as ‘housewife’ on the visa application.”

One reason the Delhi school is widely admired is that it has a veteran and respected staff of teachers recruited in part by generous pay packages, including tax benefits.

A senior Indian official estimated that the American Embassy School had at least 16 teachers working illegally, and that smaller U.S. schools in Mumbai and Chennai probably had several more. Schools are not alone in this: Many tax laws in India are at best fitfully enforced and often widely ignored.

Last February, the country’s finance minister, P. Chidambaram, announced that just 42,800 people reported earning at least $162,000 a year. In a country of 1.2 billion, where some 25,000 luxury automobiles are sold every year, the actual number is almost certainly much higher.

Khobragade’s arrest has plucked at deep sensitivity over how India is portrayed, and the news media and the public have searched for examples of U.S. diplomats’ misbehaving. This has led to headlines and a dedicated website in recent days listing some of the Facebook posts of Wayne and Alicia Muller May, the U.S. diplomats who were expelled from India over the weekend in retaliation for the U.S. insistence that Khobragade leave the country after she refused to settle the charges against her in exchange for a modest fine.

“One week in country and I already miss STEAK,” Wayne May, head of embassy security in Delhi, stated in one post among many that caused outrage. Cows are venerated by Indian Hindus, and slaughtering cows is illegal in many places. In another, Alicia May, the embassy’s community liaison officer, responded to an article that claimed nonvegetarians were more prone to violence. “It’s the vegetarians that are doing the raping, not the meat eaters - this place is just so bizarre,” she wrote.

In a briefing Monday, a spokeswoman for the State Department, Marie Harf, said that these posts “absolutely do not reflect U.S. government policy, nor were they made on any official U.S. government social media account.”

Neither officials in Washington nor New Delhi have publicly identified the Mays as the expelled diplomats, but their identity has been widely reported.

On Tuesday, Khobragade was welcomed by nearly 60 people at the Mumbai airport as she arrived home after a weekend in New Delhi. The crowd, fired up by the fierce patriotism her arrest has provoked in India, shouted “Down with America, down with Barack Obama” and other slogans. When Khobragade finally appeared, she was swarmed by TV cameras and supporters.

“I am thankful to my city, Mumbai, for the love and support,” she said.

Khobragade’s husband and children are U.S. citizens and remain in New York. She said she was not sure when she would see them again since U.S. officials had promised to press charges against her if she returned.

Indian officials are negotiating with the United States on the status of at least 14 other maids of diplomats in the United States. Indian diplomats have proposed to the Finance Ministry that the government pay the maids’ salaries, which would make them immune to U.S. wage-and-hour laws. But in an editorial Tuesday, The Hindustan Times argued that the Finance Ministry should reject the request as “there is no argument in favor of the Indian taxpayer paying for household help for its officers.”

http://www.ndtv.com/article/india/indian-school-ensnared-in-us-diplomatic-row-471727


2 posted on 01/16/2014 8:07:35 PM PST by cold start
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To: cold start

“Thanks to the Devyani Khobragade affair, which has led to intense scrutiny of what American diplomats and their staff and family may be up to in India, the authorities are looking at the prospect of uncovering what could be a multi-crore tax evasion. Sources told Firstpost that the United States embassy in New Delhi may have been aware of the violation of Indian tax laws and other things for years, possibly decades. The eye of the storm promises to be the American Embassy School, also famous for its abbreviation AES, in New Delhi’s posh Chanakyapuri area.

The school, established way back in 1952, has a staff of hundreds, including a faculty of around 150 teachers. Last month, India had asked the US embassy to provide details about people working in American schools all over the country and other US government facilities to determine if they had permission to do so and if they were paying taxes that are mandatory under Indian law. A catch point in the tricky Indian government’s missive to the Americans was that diplomats’ spouses who take up work in schools or other embassy facilities are supposed to inform the host country. India is well aware of the fact the American diplomats stationed in India have routinely been violating the Indian laws. But the Indian demand from the Americans, made in the wake of the nanny mess in the Devyani incident, has pushed the Americans into the corner as New Delhi is no longer willing to turn a blind eye to such violations any more. Firstpost has learnt that the US diplomats in New Delhi are in jitters as they race against the ticking clock to furnish details. They know that they have eaten more than they could chew as they never realised that India would go to this extent in the Devyani case. The American embassy in New Delhi sent two internal emails today to its staffers, cautioning them to be ready to face imminent adverse media publicity. Top American diplomats held series of meetings through the day today preparing to deal with the imminent crisis. At these meetings, sources said, the staffers were even told to be even prepared to the closure of the school. Indian government sources told this writer thus: “Tax evasion from a school (read AES) which is charging so much from the students is a willful deceit of Indian laws.” The American Embassy School must be among the most expensive schools in the country where lots of rich Indians send their wards to in the hope of securing a better future for them in the US years later. See the AES fee structure. A pre-Kindergarten child is charged $10,310 annually in tuition fee, a Grade 6-8 student is charged $21,690 annually and a grade 11-12 student is charged $22,390. This is only tuition fees. There are other fees like the application fee of $300 (which is non-refundable), a registration fee (KG-Grade 12) of $11,110, registration fee (pre-K) of $ 5,110 and English as an additional language (EAL) support fee of $ 2500. Then there is a lunch fee of $550. Over and above all this, there is a bus fee too which ranges from $1,170 to 1,800, depending on the distance. Sources have told this writer that what has stumped the Americans is that many of their diplomats have their spouses working in the American School or elsewhere but they have not been putting these incomes on record. Moreover, when the AES started, the Indian government had given certain leverages and concessions to the Americans, including exempting the school and a particular number of its faculty members from income tax. The problem is that the Americans have unilaterally elongated the tax-exemption list sizably. There are many staffers in the US embassy in New Delhi, mostly Americans, who have been evading taxes as per Indian laws for years for the simple reason that Indian government has been turning a blind eye to this malpractice. However, the Devyani episode has forced India to call the Americans’ bluff. The Americans were at the wrong end of the stick several years ago when the American School in Mumbai was found to be indulging in the same malpractices and as a result of the intervention of the Bombay High Court the Americans were made to shell out huge money (with arrears) to India. The current scenario looks the same. The Americans are all set to be embarrassed as one of their major media flagships—New York Times—is expected to come up with a damning disclosure on the same lines.”

http://www.firstpost.com/india/khobragade-fallout-us-embassy-evaded-tax-worth-crores-1342275.html


3 posted on 01/16/2014 8:10:15 PM PST by cold start
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To: cold start

Someone should be arrested, strip-searched and sent to prison without being proven guilty as they should be treated like Americans and not some foreigners.


4 posted on 01/16/2014 8:17:43 PM PST by Cowgirl
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To: Cowgirl
"They know that they have eaten more than they could chew"

If they have eaten it, they have already chewed it.

5 posted on 01/16/2014 8:36:03 PM PST by Enterprise ("Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities." Voltaire)
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To: Enterprise

“If they have eaten it, they have already chewed it.”

Not necessarily.


6 posted on 01/16/2014 8:40:15 PM PST by ltc8k6
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To: cold start
Yikes, what a mess! On the bright side, none of the female spouses have been arrested and jailed for tax evasion, and strip searched/cavity searched.

Foreign relations are such a mess right now.

7 posted on 01/16/2014 10:19:11 PM PST by Moorings
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