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Let's admit, it's MEA culpa

The ministry of external affairs should not have got into the Norway kids controversy, HT writes.

india Updated: May 09, 2012 01:13 IST
Hindustan Times
NRI children,ministry of external affairs,SM Krishna

To say that diplomatic pressure from India resulted in the two NRI children being sent here from Norway is to claim credit where very little is due. From the very beginning, the ministry of external affairs (MEA) waded into the battle for the children without anything substantive to prove the many allegations that were made about the Norwegian system. Egged on by social activists, India suggested that the fact that the Norwegian child welfare authorities took the two little children away from their parents and put them in foster homes was indicative of racial and cultural prejudice. In fact, it was even suggested that the children sleeping with their parents and being fed by hand were the main reasons for the Norwegian authorities to take them away. It did not strike anyone from the Indian embassy to cross check all the facts with the Norwegians.

No less than the external affairs minister SM Krishna leapt into the fray and clamoured for the children to be restored to their parents, if not brought back to India. When the Norwegian authorities were adamant that the parental home did not have a conducive environment for the children to be raised, a further hue and cry was made. When a family court in Norway ruled that the children will stay in foster homes till the age of 18, all hell broke loose with the children's grandparents starting a campaign ably aided by the foreign ministry. It was then that it was discovered that the children were disturbed due to marital problems between the parents. Now as it turns out, the children have been returned to India without their parents, though one of them has special needs. At the risk of sounding callous, it might have been better for the children to have stayed in Norway where they would have certainly received much better medical care than in their grandparents' home near Kolkata. But the grandstanding by our external affairs ministry continues with the minister of state for external affairs going to the airport to receive the children. And, of course, Mr Krishna saying that the children belonged to India.

One can only imagine how traumatised the children must be after being taken away from their parents, foster homes and now returned to a country which they are not familiar with. Surely, this should have been left to the Norwegian authorities to deal with and not made into some kind of international issue. The external affairs ministry must have more productive issues to take up on the global front. It would seem that by bringing culture and race into the picture and arm-twisting the Norwegians, the interest of the children have not been served. And that should have been the foremost consideration in this protracted battle.

First Published: Apr 25, 2012 21:11 IST