The Indian government will not swap Sarabjit for Arif. According to senior Indian officials negotiating with Pakistan on prisoner exchange, such an exchange has not been contemplated by India and is unlikely to be. Pakistani officials asked for the release of Arif, a Pakistani national convicted in India for the Red Fort attack by Lashkar-e-Taiba in December 2000. Pakistan reacted to India’s plea of releasing Sarabjit. There is very good reason why India will never agree to such an exchange. First, the Indian government believes Sarabjit was picked up by the Pakistani authorities and forced to admit he was a RAW agent, then tried and convicted. And exchange with Arif would put the latter on the same plane. This would completely undercut India’s plank that Pakistan regularly sends trained terrorists into India as an instrument of state policy.
Second, according to senior intelligence sources, while there exists a system of “swapping” in the transnational intelligence community, there has to be what is called “parity” between the persons being exchanged. In this case, neither India nor Pakistan have any reason to admit they were off the mark. But most important, Pakistan, sources here say, can derive greater political mileage from this than India — by claiming that India picks up innocent Pakistanis and poses them as terrorists, and if a swap actually takes place, the Pakistani claim could have an Indian face.
Third, the Red Fort attack case was among the most high-profile instances of terrorism against the Indian state, almost on par with the 2001 Parliament House attack. For India to downgrade such a terrorist attack by something as tame as a prisoner swap would be suicidal.
And the bottomline — it’s not just Sarabjit’s sister who has objected to getting her brother back on such terms. Any swap by the Indian government would decisively turn public opinion. What is your say in all this would you like the swap?