New Delhi steps up pressure on Oslo to repatriate Indian kids

India on Monday stepped up pressure on Norway in the wake of fresh complications coming in the way of repatriation of the two children, who had been taken away by the Norwegian child welfare service, Barnevarne, from their NRI parents Anurup and Sagarika Bhattacharya early 2011.

With senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj, Brinda Karat of the CPI (M), Annie Raja of the CPI and Mani Shankar Aiyar of the Congress cutting across the party lines and joining the grandparents of the children to stage a protest demonstration near the Norwegian Embassy in New Delhi, M Ganapathi, the Secretary (West) in the Ministry of External Affairs, was rushed to Oslo to ensure early return of one-year-old Aishwarya and three-year-old Abhigyan to India.

Ganapathi called on Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store and urged him to expedite the process of return of the young children to India.

Sources said that Norwegian Government was insisting on guarantees from New Delhi that the children’s uncle Arunabhash Bhattacharya would have enough financial ability in the years to come to bring up the kids.

The authority in Norway also wanted to ensure that Arunabhash would keep custody and other family members, including grandparents or parents, would not get the children.

Ganapathi is understood to have conveyed New Delhi’s missive to Oslo, underlining that India had “strong legislative and institutional mechanism to protect the interests of children after their return to the country.”

According to an understanding New Delhi and Oslo arrived at last month to resolve the eight month-long custody row, Abhigyan and Aishwarya were to be handed over to Arunabhash.

But the Barnevernet, the Norwegian Childcare Services, on February 16 said that it would take a decision by early March on whether the custody of the children could be awarded to their uncle.

Official spokesperson and Joint Secretary (External Affairs) in the Ministry of External Affairs, Syed Akbaruddin, said that India’s Special Envoy had positive discussions with the Norwegian Foreign Minister in Oslo.

Akbaruddin also said that Ganapathi would meet Norway's Minister of Children, Equality And Social Inclusion Audun Lysbakken later.

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