Islamabad's strategy of allowing Jadhav's kin to meet him to bolster its ‘humanitarian' credentials before the ICJ has misfired given what went down

by Jai Kumar Verma

Last year, the Pakistan Government allowed the mother and wife of Kulbhushan Jadhav to meet him on December 25, which is coincidentally the birthday of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of that country. Although Pakistan propagated that the meeting was on humanitarian ground and in line with the idealistic principles of Islam, in reality the 40-minute meeting was allowed because of an ulterior motive and conducted against all civilised norms. Both the ladies were compelled to change their clothes and in the case of the wife remove her Mangalsutra and Bindi. Not only this, shoes of his wife Chetna were taken away and not returned. His mother Avanti was interrupted again and again when she was talking to Jadhav in their mother tongue, Marathi, and Pakistani officials also disrupted the communication.

Jadhav was made to sit in a glass cabin and his wife and mother talked to him through an intercom. The Indian diplomat who accompanied the ladies was forced to sit with another glass partition. Jadhav was under immense strain and it was clear that he was forced to speak in tutored sentences. The Press release of the Ministry of External Affairs stated that “the Pakistani side conducted the meeting in a manner which violated the letter and spirit of our understandings”. The Press release further mentioned that “the Pakistani Press was allowed on multiple occasions to approach the family members closely, harass and hector them and hurl false and motivated accusations about Jadhav. This despite a clear agreement that the media would not be allowed close access.” It was barbarous that Jadhav was not allowed to touch the feet of his mother and hug his wife. In fact, it was not a meeting but a façade. Khawaja Muhammad Asif, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, termed it as consular access; however, when the Indian representative objected that the meeting does not come under the purview of consular access, the Pakistani Foreign Office backed off and accepted that the meeting did not constitute consular access. 

Pakistan has launched a low intensity war against India and is assisting secessionist elements in India, especially in Kashmir. As the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) is abetting diverse terrorist outfits in India and Afghanistan, and terrorists trained in Pakistan are involved in terrorist activities all over the world, Pakistan wants to malign India for assisting secessionist groups in Baluchistan. Therefore, the ISI kidnapped Jadhav, a retired officer from the Indian Navy from Iran and is trying to project to the world that he was involved in espionage and terrorist activities in Baluchistan. Although former German Ambassador to Pakistan Gunter Mulack stated that Jadhav was caught by the Taliban in Iran and sold to ISI, another knowledgeable Afghan journalist also reported that Jadhav was caught by smugglers in Iran and later the ISI purchased him from them.

As Jadhav was involved in lawful business and was abducted from Iran, hence, the ISI had no authentic proof about the involvement of Jadhav in espionage and terrorist activities, which could withstand in the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Pakistan's Field General Court Martial sentenced Jadhav on the basis of his confessions which were obtained through torture and coercion. Various videos showed by Pakistani TV channels about confessions of Jadhav clearly indicate that the videos were concocted; there were several cuts in the videos. The military court, which awarded death sentence, is worse than Kangroo courts. 

In the 21st century, civilised countries do not award death sentences even to spies, except in wartime. Although relations between India and Pakistan are tense, but the countries are not at war, hence, death sentence was gratuitous. Analysts claim that the military court awarded death sentence to Jadhav as Lt Colonel (Retd) Muhammad Habib Zahir, who was working in the ISI, disappeared from Lumbini in Nepal near the Indo-Nepal border. His family members filed a report with the local police that he was kidnapped by Indian Intelligence agencies. The Indian authorities immediately denied this fabricated allegation. It appears that Zahir was on some anti-India mission, hence, the ISI became worried about his disappearance and the military court announced the death sentence to Jadhav to put pressure on India even though it did not have credible evidence against Jadhav. In December 2016, Sartaz Aziz, Advisor of Prime Minister of Pakistan, stated that the dossier of Jadhav contains more or less his confessions only.

The family of Jadhav was allowed to meet him after 22 months of his arrest, the birthday of Jinnah had fallen before also, but authorities in Pakistan had not allowed the meeting. Analysts mention that on December 25, 2016, the signs of torture on Jadhav were so visible that the meeting could not be arranged.

Pakistan’s full case is based on the confessions of Jadhav and Pakistani authorities extracted these confessions through extreme torture. Second, now they need more evidences against Jadhav as the case is with the ICJ. By allowing the meeting, Pakistan wanted to impress upon the ICJ its humanitarian approach. On the other hand, it briefed its journalists to ask pointed questions so that they can fill the missing gaps through answers from the family members.

Besides, Islamabad is also using this meeting for propaganda purposes. It has released several videos of the meeting and also released the video where Jadhav was thanking the Pakistan Government for the meeting. By these videos, the Pakistan Government wants to impress the international community that it is such a munificent country that it has allowed the wife and mother to meet Jadhav. But the propaganda of Pakistan is exposed as it is not providing consular access to Jadhav, which is his right. In the consular access, the Indian High Commission official will meet Jadhav without glass screen and can talk much more freely. Jadhav can also tell the official about the inhuman behaviour of Pakistani security agencies. This is why Pakistan is not allowing consular access and has made a façade of meeting with the family members.

Mohd Faisal, spokesman of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan, alleged in a Press conference that Jadhav has confessed before a magistrate and court that he was tasked by the Indian intelligence agency “to plan, coordinate and organise espionage, terrorism and sabotage aiming to destabilise and wage war against Pakistan.” Faisal also claimed Jadhav he was caught “red-handed”. The good points of the meeting are that it confirmed that Jadhav is alive and Faisal, Pakistan spokesperson mentioned that it is not the last meeting.

But it is clear that Pakistan is using this meeting for misinformation and projecting itself as a liberal country. Indian diplomatic missions abroad must counter this false and mischievous propaganda and impress upon the international community that Pakistan is a terrorist country and perpetually infiltrating terrorists in India and Afghanistan. They have abducted an innocent Indian from Iran and are projecting him as a spy and saboteur. They have not given consular access and meeting with his family members after 22 months was a shame on any civilised and democratic country.

The writer is member, United Services Institute of India, and Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses