A rare gesture of goodwill: Pakistan returns Indian girl who strayed across border, complete with new clothes and shoes

 

A little girl from a remote village in Rajasthan has become the human face of the goodwill that can sometimes exist between South Asia’s often-vexed nuclear-armed neighbours.

Seven-year-old Pooja Meghwal was herding cattle on March 29, close to the border with Pakistan, when she strayed a little too far. Realising she had crossed through a gap in the fence, her family raised the alarm with police who could see her footprints heading into Pakistan.

The police raised the matter with India’s Border Security Force (BSF), which in turn raised it with the Pakistan Rangers, who have responsibility for securing the borders on the Pakistan side.

On Monday evening, Pooja’s tiny village was the location of loud celebrations after the little girl returned to her family, wearing a new dress and new shoes and carrying a bag of candy, all of which had been given to her by the Pakistan Rangers.

“Pooja’s father was apprehensive about the condition of his daughter, who had inadvertently strayed into Pakistan on Friday evening,” village headman Ravindra Kachawa told the Press Trust of India. “So when he was informed by officials that Pooja has returned safely, he was extremely happy.”

The headman added: “The BSF and Pakistan Rangers played a good role in locating her and ensuring her safe return. Her father, Sukhram, thanked BSF and also conveyed the same gesture to the Pakistan Rangers.”

Reports said that the little girl had walked several miles into Pakistan before falling asleep in a hut where she was located by Pakistan soldiers. Because her footwear and clothes were in such bad condition, the Pakistani soldiers bought her some new ones.

Pooja lives in a village known as 34 KYD, located little more than a mile from the border with Pakistan. She was one of scores of people from both sides of the border who accidentally cross every year.

Arranging their return can be difficult because of the tense relationship that exists between the countries and the mutual suspicion that some of those who cross may be spies.

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