Thursday, 2 May 2013
Could India Have Saved Sarabjit Singh? How?
Yes, I believe India could have saved Sarabjit’s life. India could have brought Sarabjit home before his brutal Pakistani gaolers cracked his skull and killed him.
Whether India admits it or not, Sarabjit was accused of being a saboteur, of having planted bombs leading to Pakistani deaths. Whether it was Sarabjit himself who carried out those acts or someone else, neither Sarabjit nor India has been able to offer a decent explanation for Sarabjit finding himself in Pakistan. I mean, the average India, even those living in border areas, does not saunter over to Pakistan for shopping and other R&R activities.
Never mind all that, how could India have persuaded Pakistan to release Sarabjit? By making loud noices and chest thumbing?
There’s usually only one way to obtain the release of someone in Sarabjit’s place – which is to exchange him for a Pakistani held in an Indian jail. A few years ago, I had written a hasty piece for this blog arguing that Sarabjit could be exchanged for Ajmal Kasab. With the benefit of hindsight, I don’t think I made a good case for such exchange. Kasab was openly acknowledged to be a terrorist. Pakistan had disowned Kasab rather than deny the charges against him. This was not the case for Sarabjit.
However, the basic logic behind my plea was sound. India should have exchanged Sarabjit for one or more Pakistani nationals held by India. This could have been an individual(s) facing espionage or terrorism charges, ideally someone related to a powerful Pakistani politician or someone else well-connected. It’s not as if such exchanges are unheard of. Israel routinely exchanges its prisoners for its soldiers and spies held by Hamas, Hizbollah etc. During the cold war, the US and USSR used to have such exchanges. India has released convicted terrorists to secure the release of hijacked passengers and abducted civilians.
In every civilized country, captured soldiers and spies are given great importance and securing their release is a matter of national pride. India does not seem to have imbibed this value and no one within India’s officialdom was particularly keen to bring Sarabjit home.
India let Sarabjit down. India’s inaction killed Sarabjit.