An Indian woman who said she was forced to marry a Pakistani has returned to India after a Pakistani court's intervention. Will this friendly gesture help defuse tensions between the two nations? Murali Krishnan reports.
Indian national Uzma Ahmad, who claimed she was forced to marry a Pakistani at gunpoint and was kept in the Islamic country's northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province for weeks, returned to her home country Thursday after a Pakistani court ordered her release.
Ahmad, who is in her early 20s, broke down into tears several times while narrating her story to Indian media.
According to media reports, Ahmad met Pakistani Tahir Ali in Malaysia and fell in love with him. Ali forced her to marry him on May 3 when she visited Pakistan, a claim that cannot be verified. On May 12, she made a plea to Pakistani authorities to be allowed to return to India.
Upon her return to India on Thursday through the Wagah border near the northern Indian city of Amritsar, Ahmad prostrated and kissed the ground.
"It is easy to enter Pakistan, but leaving it is impossible. Pakistan is a well of death," Ahmad said, adding that she "would have been dead" had she stayed in Pakistan any longer.
"I went to Pakistan as a tourist. The situation changed there so rapidly that I couldn't figure that Ali was giving me sleeping pills. From my point of view, it was kidnapping," said Ahmad, adding that many women were facing a similar situation in Pakistan's northwestern Buner district.
Pakistani media does not endorse Ahmad's claims about forced marriage. Irrespective of the controversy surrounding Ahmad's arrival in Pakistan and her subsequent marriage, Indian officials admit that Pakistani authorities played a positive role in making sure that she returned to her country safely.
On Thursday, Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj thanked the Pakistani government and judiciary for acting swiftly on Ahmad's case.
"Political difference aside, Uzma's return is a result of the help provided by Pakistan's foreign ministry," Swaraj told a joint press conference with Ahmad.
"We did not expect that Uzma would be back this soon. We thank both India and Pakistan," Ahmad's brother Wasim told DW.
Jadhav, a former Indian naval officer, was sentenced to death in April by a Pakistani military court on spying charges
Peace still far off
Ties between India and Pakistan are extremely tense due to clashes along the Kashmir border and accusations by both sides that the other is supporting terrorism.
Ahmad's return to India is a positive development in these tense times, but diplomats do not foresee the incident to lead to the resumption of peace talks between the two nuclear-armed South Asian nations.
"I hope for the best but I see this incident as a one-off affair. More positive efforts are needed to mend Indian-Pakistani ties," former Indian diplomat Lalit Mansingh told DW.
"Is there going to be a thaw in relations now? I seriously doubt it. There is still a lot of mistrust and suspicion on both sides," a foreign ministry official told DW on condition of anonymity.
Indian-Pakistani cooperation on Ahmad is in contrast to the case relating to Kulbhushan Jadhav, a former Indian naval officer sentenced to death in April by a Pakistani military court on spying charges.
New Delhi consulted the Hague-based International Court of Justice (ICJ) to intervene. The ICJ last week ordered Islamabad not to execute Jadhav "pending the final decision in these proceedings."