May 032013

India miss chance to get Sarabjit safe

Did India miss chance to get Sarabjit safe? Highly placed sources in the ministry of external affairs reveal that the issue of releasing Sarabjit on humanitarian grounds was not taken up at the highest level, especially in the meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari in April last year.

In what is now being seen as a costly miss, India did not even try and negotiate a swap-deal for Chishty and Sarabjit. Chishty, a Pakistani virologist sentenced to life in a murder case was finally granted clemency by the Indian state on humanitarian grounds.

Pleas to release Sarabjit on humanitarian grounds were taken up at many levels, including at the level of former minister for external affairs, SM Krishna and recently by home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde when he met his counterpart Rehman Malik in Delhi in December last year.

“The only way to have got Sarabjit released was through a trade-off with Chishty but we seem to have let that opportunity go,’’ said G Parthasarathy, former high commissioner to Pakistan.

Sarabjit’s family was in fact hopeful that if Zardari had signed off on a pending proposal to commute the Indian’s death sentence to life, he could have also been released from jail as he had already served his 14-year sentence.

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