US bill on getting back 'abducted' children to arm-twist India, others

New Delhi has resisted pressure to sign The Hague convention

US bill on getting back 'abducted' children to arm-twist India, others

 A bill recently passed by the American House of Representatives may prove to be yet another irritant in India-US ties, as it seeks to arm-twist New Delhi to help Washington get back children of estranged Indian-American couples caught in international custody disputes.

The Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Bill was passed by the lower house of American Congress on December 11 – just a day before the humiliating arrest of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade by US law enforcement officials in New York triggered a diplomatic row between New Delhi and Washington.

The bill seeks to empower the American president to take stern action against any country, which would not help Washington to get back children “abducted” from the US and taken to that country, mostly either by their fathers or mothers following break-ups in marriages.

If the bill is passed by the Senate, the American president will have powers to take measures even against India and other countries, which neither signed the 1980 Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, nor struck any bilateral deal with US for repatriation of children subjected to international parental abductions.

The measures the US president can take include limiting security assistance, withdrawing development assistance and even using diplomatic tools to block loans from World Bank and International Monetary Fund, apart from imposing visa restrictions.

The Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction was concluded in The Hague on October 25, 1980 and has so far been signed by 90 countries. It provides for expeditious return of a child abducted internationally by a parent from one member country to another with the intervention of the two governments.

New Delhi, however, has not yet signed the treaty, as the Ministry of Law and Justice is of the view that India’s accession to the treaty would put Indian women married to Non-Resident Indians or foreign nationals to disadvantage in cases of break-ups in marriages and legal battles over custody of children.

This is also the reason why India has not yet struck a bilateral deal with the US for cooperation in such cases. The Law Commission of India, however, in 2009 recommended that India should accede to The Hague convention.

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