External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Monday pushed for the repatriation of a one-and-a-half-year-old Indian child, who is in foster care in Berlin, during the bilateral meet with his German counterpart Annalena Baerbock. The German authorities placed the child in foster care over a year ago, alleging that the parents harassed her.
According to an online petition demanding her repatriation to India, the incident came to light in September last year when the child’s parents took her to the hospital, claiming that her paternal grandmother had accidentally injured her. At the hospital, the authorities accused the parents of sexually harassing the child and took her away. Her father was working as a software engineer in Germany on a work visa. The family members of the child in India have been requesting her repatriation since then.
Jaishankar told Baerbock that the child should be in her “linguistic, religious, cultural, and social environment”.
“We have concerns that the child should be in her linguistic, religious, cultural and social environment. This is her right. And our embassy is pursuing the matter with German authorities, but it was also a subject which I had brought up with the minister,” he said during a joint media briefing with Baerbock.
Jaishankar added: “I think it’s a very delicate matter, there are privacy issues involved in it. So I think both governments are handling it with that very much in mind. So, I think that’s as much as I can say, publicly.”
Baerbock, who is on a two-day visit to India, said the well-being of the child is a matter of great importance to her. “As a mother of two daughters, I would like to say that, for me, the well-being of the child is very important. I have received detailed information on this case. I can assure you that the child is being cared for well… For the German authorities, the child’s well-being is a top priority,” she said.
Baerbock said that the matter of the child’s cultural identity is being taken care of by the “youth offices” in Germany. “Children are only taken in custody by the youth office if there are serious concerns about their wellbeing. This can happen in cases of violent sexual abuse, or severe neglect,” she said.
“It is about privacy rights as well. So, we cannot say anymore at this point. The case is pending in court. After the verdict, of course, there can be a review. But for us the priority is the well-being of the child,” the German minister said.