Sarabjit episode exposes our soft approach on Pakistan

In the last one week, the entire country has watched in a state of helplessness how the Pakistan authorities have treated the entire Sarabjit Singh affair and how our own government has been totally ineffective in dealing with the grim situation.

This dalit from Punjab who has been in a Pakistani jail since the last 22 years has slim chances of survival and unconfirmed reports have already stated that he was brain dead and the ventilator support was merely making his heart function. Family members of the prisoner who was brutally attacked inside the Lahore jail have returned to India after a disappointing trip to Pakistan and are planning to meet Congress president Sonia Gandhi to seek her intervention.

The official response of our High commission in Islamabad has been pathetic and what has happened also demonstrates how casually the entire incident has been dealt with. It was known that Sarabjit’s life was in danger and it was the responsibility of our diplomats there to ensure that he was given adequate protection as well as proper legal advice. Nothing was done and after this dastardly pre-mediated attack, the Pakistanis initially even denied Indian officials access. The access was apparently given only after it was declared that the prisoner’s chances of survival “were slim”. Thus they were unable to know firsthand what his condition was in the first few days.

Sarabjit’s family particularly his gutsy sister have been running from pillar to post and have not received any help except verbal assurances. They will be totally shattered if the news about Sarabjit’s passing away was to reach them in the near future.

This incident has been highlighted by the Indian media extensively and shows our government in an extremely poor light. Since this has happened in the election year, it will contribute to further eroding the image of the government, which needs immediate steps to correct the public perception about its functioning and effectiveness. Apart from this episode, what is happening in Ladakh is also being watched very closely by the people. The inability of the foreign office to deal with Beijing has created an impression that the Chinese were going to have the last word.

The UPA government whose foreign policy is essentially decided from the Prime Minister’s office must realise that both Pakistan and China are seen as countries that are not perceived by the common people to be friends of India. Therefore if matters relating to these countries with whom India has had wars in the past are to be dealt with, the government at no point should be seen as weak and wavering. Otherwise, it will have to bear the brunt of this negative public opinion.

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