India had the opportunity to treat Pakistani teenager and anti-Taliban rights activist Malala Yousafzai, but lost the chance, reported Hindustan Times last Wednesday. Fifteen-year-old Malala, who has become a symbol of girls' rights worldwide, was shot by Taliban attackers on October 9.
Civil society groups in India and Pakistan, backed by some Awami National Party legislators in Pakistan, approached the Indian establishment to have Malala flown to a super-specialty private hospital in Mumbai for treatment, highly-placed sources said. But, according to sources, officials in the Indian Prime Minister's Office (PMO) hesitated on two counts: Malala did not possess valid travel documents, which could have easily been addressed, and such a move might seem like a ploy on India's part to score a brownie point on the back of a human tragedy.
When contacted, a PMO official said "there were indeed informal talks on the issue, but there was no formal proposal from any individual or group" to allow Malala to travel to Mumbai for treatment. Asked if India could have made the offer, he declined to comment. Indian mediators were asked by the PMO to urge the Pakistani civil society groups and/or the Awami National Party to "make a request to India", sources told HT. The process should begin from Pakistan, the mediators were told. But by this time, Malala received preliminary treatment in a Peshawar hospital, where surgeons had managed to remove the bullet that had hit her skull. She was then shifted to a military hospital and, significantly, a military statement reproduced by the BBC said that Malala be "shifted abroad to a UK centre, which has the capability to provide integrated care to children who have sustained severe injury". The air ambulance was arranged by the United Arab Emirates and she was flown to London.
Sources said key doctors in a super-specialty hospital had been spoken to and had shown willingness to take up Malala's case after addressing security considerations. "Had India made the offer to treat her, it would have resonated throughout the world and helped build trust on both sides. We should have shed the timidity," said Mahesh Bhatt, filmmaker and a campaigner for people-to-people connect between India and Pakistan. The Taliban have threatened to attack Malala again. Two other girls, who were in the school bus with her, were also injured in the October 9 attack.