New Delhi: Indian officials in Berlin celebrated Diwali last month with baby girl Ariha Shah, who has been living in a foster care in the German capital for over two years.
Ariha was placed in the custody of Germany’s Youth Welfare Office (Jugendamt) on September 23, 2021 after the then seven-month-old baby suffered an accidental injury. She has been in foster care since then.
External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi on Friday said consular access was given to the child in the second week of last month and that Indian embassy officials celebrated Diwali with her.
India has been pressing for her early return to India arguing that it is important for the child to be in her linguistic, religious, cultural and social environment.
“This is an important issue. We continue to monitor it… We had consular access. We were able to share with the child items to ensure the immersion of the child in Indian culture as well as continued efforts to ensure that her rights are protected,” Bagchi said at his weekly media briefing.
He was replying to a question on Ariha.
“We have been working towards cultural immersion of the child and resource materials relating to Indian festivals, customs and practices were handed over to the German authorities,” Bagchi said.
“We remain in constant engagement with the German authorities to safeguard the child’s cultural, national identity and rights and to ensure her return to India,” he said.
The Ministry of External Affairs and the Embassy of India in Berlin have been persistently advocating for the return of Ariha Shah to India.
To a question on Bangladesh Nationalist Party’s allegations that New Delhi is meddling in polls in that country, Bagchi said the elections are an internal matter of Bangladesh.
“Our position on this has been consistent. The elections are domestic matters of Bangladesh and we believe it is for the people of Bangladesh to decide their own future,” he said.
“As a close friend and partner of Bangladesh, we would like to see peaceful elections there and we will continue to support Bangladesh for a peaceful and progressive nation,” he said.
Asked about reports of a Chinese research vessel visiting Sri Lanka, Bagchi said: “We have said that we always monitor developments that have a bearing on national security and we take necessary measures.”