India will not take the case of Sarabjit Singh’s murder in a Pakistani prison to any international forum because both countries are “wedded to the principle of bilateralism”, the Ministry of External Affairs has said.
“We know each other well and will continue to follow the pattern governing our relations in the past,” said Ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin at a news briefing here on Thursday.
India had consistently rebuffed overtures by other countries to negotiate on Kashmir and going by the spokesperson’s observations, will follow the same principle of bilateralism in dealing with the aftermath of Sarabjit’s death — which is the “inhuman treatment” meted out to Indian prisoners in Pakistani jails that Mr. Akbaruddin said was “a matter of grave concern”.
“It is a norm worldwide that security of prisoners is the responsibility of the state authorities. We have raised the issue of safety and security of Indian prisoners,” he said.
Before Sarabjit’s death, another Indian, Chamel Singh, died in mysterious circumstances in the same jail. India had been consistently calling on Pakistan to deal with Indian prisoners in a sympathetic and humane manner.
India, Mr. Akbaruddin indicated, was convinced that Sarabjit was not guilty of charges of terrorism. “If we were not convinced, we would not do it. If we considered him guilty, we would not have pursued his case ever,” he said.
Mr. Akbaruddin maintained that the Indian government had done everything possible after news came of Sarabjit having been severely assaulted in a Lahore jail by his co-inmates. After Sarabjit’s death too, Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai spoke twice to his Pakistani counterpart and the Indian High Commissioner in Islamabad too spoke to the caretaker Chief Minister of Pakistan’s Punjab.
Meanwhile, other sources said Pakistan had responded positively to India’s suggestion for shifting Sarabjit to another country for further medical treatment but he passed away before a final decision was taken.
Pakistan provided India with updates twice daily on Sarabjit’s medical condition — at 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. — and these were analysed by doctors here.
On whether the incident would have any impact on everyday business with Pakistan, the sources said no meetings had been scheduled at Secretary-level for quite some time and with a caretaker government in place, none was envisaged.