India-Pakistan diplomatic relations may be at a low over alleged spy Kulbhushan Jadhav and cross-border firings, but External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Thursday was at her diplomatic best when she thanked Islamabad for making possible the return of Uzma Ahmed — an Indian woman forced to marry a Pakistani man.
"Uzma is here also because of the cooperation of Pakistan's Foreign and Home Ministries. I want to thank the Foreign Ministry and the Home Ministry of Pakistan. If Uzma is with us today, they have a role too," Sushma Swaraj told the media after Uzma was repatriated to India from the Wagah border on the instruction of the Islamabad High Court.
The Minister also thanked Pakistani lawyer Shahnawaz Noon who fought Uzma's "case like a father" and argued before a judge that the "prestige of Pakistan" was at stake if the woman was not allowed to return home.
Sushma Swaraj said it was quite a big deal to ensure the safe return of "a woman trapped in a foreign land".
"But the Indian High Commission (in Islamabad) is a ray of hope," she said, praising Deputy High Commissioner J.P. Singh who handled the case from May 5 when Uzma visited the mission and sought refuge there to escape from alleged torture by her in-laws in Buner of Pakistan.
"I feel proud of an officer like J.P. Singh. There was no one to advise him. But he did all he could for (Uzma). He has really lived up to one of our slogans: In a foreign land, the Indian embassy is your friend," Sushma Swaraj said.
The Minister said Uzma was subjected to huge "trauma" in Pakistan and the Indian government was ready to do anything to have her back safely.
"The first time I spoke to J.P., I said even if we had to keep her for one, two or there years, we would keep her at the Indian High Commission."
Describing Uzma as a "daughter of India", Sushma Swaraj said she "won the hearts of all Indians" when she kissed the ground upon crossing over into Indian territory at the Wagah border.
"That picture speaks a thousand words itself. That gesture alone…," the Minister said.
She also posted the picture on Twitter of Uzma touching the Indian soil reverentially.
Uzma thanked the government of India, particularly Sushma Swaraj, for making her return possible and making her realise "the value of my life as an Indian citizen".
"I am proud to be an Indian citizen. Sushma madam would call me every day to say we are fighting for you, you are our daughter, you are India's daughter," Uzma said, recounting the days she spent at the Indian High Commission in Islamabad.
Uzma stayed in Pakistan for 25 days after travelling through the Wagah border on May 1. The woman claimed she was forced at gunpoint to marry on May 3 Buner resident Tahir Ali whom she had fallen in love with in Malaysia.
During the court hearing on Wednesday, Pakistani judge Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani asked Uzma if she wanted to meet her husband in the chamber but she refused the offer, saying she did not want to talk to him.
The High Court ordered that Uzma can go back to her country and the case will be processed in her absence.
Ali had filed a petition claiming that she was being forcibly kept at the Indian High Commission and that the marriage was not under coercion.