India has called on Germany to expedite the return of an Indian baby girl, Ariha Shah, who has been living in foster care in Berlin for more than 20 months. The Indian government has emphasised the importance of placing the child in her linguistic, religious, cultural, and social environment.
The custody of Ariha Shah was taken by German authorities on September 23, 2021, when she was seven months old, citing allegations of harassment by her parents.
Arindam Bagchi, the spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs, expressed deep concern over Ariha’s prolonged stay in German foster care and the infringement of her social, cultural, and linguistic rights.
Additionally, Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde has written a letter to External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, seeking assistance in bringing Ariha back to her home country.
“We would like to reiterate that Ariha Shah is an Indian national and her nationality and socio-cultural background is the most important determinant of where her foster care is to be provided,” Bagchi said.
“We urge German authorities to do all that is necessary to send Ariha to India at the earliest, which is also her inalienable right as an Indian national. We remain committed to ensuring the return of Ariha Shah to India,” he said.
During his weekly media briefing, Bagchi addressed the matter and expressed dismay over the sudden relocation of the child from her current foster parent to a specialised foster care arrangement. He also raised concerns about the manner in which this shift took place.
“We and the parents believe that this rapid change is not in the child’s best interest and could have far-reaching consequences for her emotional and mental development,” he said.
Bagchi stated that both the Ministry of External Affairs and the Embassy of India in Berlin have been continuously advocating for the repatriation of Ariha to India.
He highlighted that India has a strong child welfare and protection system in place, and there are prospective foster parents within the country who are eager to provide a nurturing environment for the child within her own socio-cultural milieu.
“The German authorities have been made aware of India’s child protection system and the details of potential foster parents have also been shared with them,” he said.
“Ariha’s continued placement in German foster care and infringement of her social, cultural and linguistic rights is of deep concern to the government of India and the parents,” he said.