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India beginning to work with US to resolve child abduction cases: official

Friday, April 13, 2018
By Lalit K Jha

Washington: India is beginning to work with the US to find "practical solutions" to child abduction cases, a State Department official told lawmakers today, asserting that America has urged the Indian government to join the Hague Convention.

According to the US State Department, India is not a signatory to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (Hague Abduction Convention), nor are there any bilateral agreements in force between India and the US concerning international parental child abduction.

Suzanne I Lawrence, Special Advisor Children's Issues Bureau of Consular Affairs at the Department of State, told members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee's Sub-committee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organisations that India was not a party to the Hague Convention and has demonstrated a pattern of non-compliance as defined in the Act.

"India is beginning to work with us to find practical solutions for children who are being abducted between our two countries," Lawrence said.

Lawrence said she believed the development was a result of her recent trip to India and her persistent engagement on the International Parental Child Abductions (IPCA).

"In February of this year, I travelled to India to encourage government officials there to resolve the numerous abduction cases they have, and for India to join the Convention," Lawrence said.

The Hague Convention is a multilateral treaty developed by the Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCCH) that provides an expeditious method to return a child internationally abducted by a parent from one member country to another.

The Convention was concluded 25 October 1980 and entered into force between the signatories on 1 December 1983. It was drafted to ensure the prompt return of children who have been abducted from their country of habitual residence or wrongfully retained in a contracting state not their country of habitual residence.

She said the US in its bilateral meetings with the governments of India, Brazil and Indonesia had been raising the issue of IPCA.

While in the US it is called abduction, most of such cases are a result of marital dispute wherein one of the parents stays with the child in India and quite often gets a court order in their favour, Lawrence said.

The State Department in its travel advisory for India cautions the US citizens for acting forcefully to get back their kids while in India.

"Parental child abduction is not a crime in India. Parents may wish to consult with an attorney in the United States and in the country to which the child has been removed or retained to learn more about how filing criminal charges may impact a custody case in the foreign court," the State Department says in its travel advisory on India.

According to an annual State Department report, the US, in 2016, had as many as 83 alleged cases of abduction of American children. In 2015, the number was 74.

"The competent authorities in India persistently failed to work with the Department of State to resolve abduction cases. As a result of this failure, 66 per cent of requests for the return of abducted children have remained unresolved for more than 12 months. India has been cited as non-compliant since 2014," it said.

Without the Hague Abduction Convention or any other protocols intended to resolve abduction cases, parents generally must pursue custody of abducted children in Indian courts, the report said.

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