NEW DELHI: The Government of India ate dust when confronted with the oil power of Saudi Arabia in the rape case involving a senior diplomat of the mission here. Majed Hassan Ashoor was accused of raping two Nepalese women , quietly left India for his home on Wednesday night with the government not even moving to officially declare him ‘persona non grata’ as per the provisions of diplomatic laws.

The media ignorance about the diplomatic conventions determining relations between two countries led several news channels and leading newspapers to maintain that New Delhi wanted the diplomat to be questioned by the police, and cooperate with the ‘investigation’. However, senior Indian diplomats told The Citizen at the onset that there is no law governing bilateral diplomatic relations between two countries under which a diplomat can be questioned or tried by the government of a country where he happens to be posted.

The only recourse for the Indian government was to declare Ashoor persona non grata and deport him back to Saudi Arabia as soon as the rape case was confirmed. This was not done following aggressive diplomacy by Saudi Arabia that is a major supplier of oil to India, and which employs at least three million Indians as its work force.

The Saudis were clear that they would not allow the diplomat to be deported by India, and that New Delhi could expert a tit for tat action and a marked deterioration in ties if this was done. Foreign Secretary Jaishankar was eclipsed by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval who took over the negotiations with Saudi Arabia, and after days of diplomatic wrangling New Delhi agreed not to press charges, and allow the diplomat to be flown out of Delhi without the demeaning ‘persona non grata’ tag.

Over the past couple of days the government was trying to bring down the decibels on this case. Talks with the Saudis finally had both sides agreeing to the latter’s decision to pull out the diplomat without any hype from the Indian foreign office. Riyadh is believed to be on the itinerary of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s foreign travels as well.

Nepal too has made conciliatory noises since. Nepal’s ambassador to India Deep Kumar Upadhyay told reporters: “Gurgaon police has done a very wonderful job and the MEA is also cooperating. And we have very friendly relations with Saudi government also. Nepal and Saudi Arabia have good relations — that’s why we are hopeful that it would be amicably settled and the victims will get justice. It’s a sensitive issue that’s (why) we are waiting and it may take some time. We are in contact with the Ministry of External Affairs.”

In the midst of this women activists who had been agitating for action against the diplomat have been left high and dry. As have the two women who were allegedly raped by the diplomat and his friends, starved and abused according to their narrative, are finding it difficult to re-enter their homes in Nepal. But then, as always, justice for the victims of sodomy and rape is hardly an issue when it comes to relations with a country as powerful as Saudi Arabia in terms of money and clout.