Indian officials’ much-awaited meeting with Kulbhushan Jadhav proved an exercise in futility today after Pakistan refused to give them unimpeded consular access. Lodging a formal protest with Islamabad, the Ministry of External Affairs shared this information with the press today.
New Delhi had requested Islamabad about a dozen times over the past year for “unimpeded, uninterrupted and unconditional” consular access to the former Indian naval officer in line with the verdict of the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The nation at large and the family of Jadhav, who was abducted from Iran, taken to Pakistan and quietly sentenced to death by a military court in April 2017, had welcomed the ICJ verdict with the hope against hope that the neighbouring country, where a democratically elected government is only nominally in power, would set him free. Gone missing the previous year from Iran, Jadhav turned up in the custody of Pakistani security agencies subsequently, accused of espionage!
Today’s consular access to Jadhav was the second time Pakistan had allowed Indian officials to meet him. The first was on 2 September 2019. But in a repeat of the first episode, Pakistani officials “with an intimidating demeanour were present in close proximity of Shri Jadhav and consular officers despite the protests of the Indian side”.
Officials spotted even a camera installed for recording their conversation. Officials reported further that Jadhav was “visibly under stress and indicated that clearly to the consular officers.”
“The arrangements did not permit a free conversation between them. The consular officers could not engage Shri Jadhav on his legal rights and were prevented from obtaining his written consent for arranging his legal representation,” the government statement said.
In the light of today’s development, India has concluded that Pakistan’s act of granting consular access was “neither meaningful nor credible”. They left the venue, lodging their protest.
In May 2020, Pakistan passed an ordinance to comply with the order of the ICJ. In the context of the consular officer of the Indian High Commission filing a petition before a high court to seek review of Jadhav’s death sentence, the contacts and conversations between the consular officer and Jadhav assume great importance, the external affairs ministry said.
“Any conversation between them must necessarily take place in privacy and without the presence of any Pakistani official or recording by Pakistan. It is only then that Shri Jadhav can speak freely without any concerns of reprisal as he remains in Pakistani custody after the meeting,” the statement said. It pointed out that it was already evident that Pakistan had repeatedly intimidated Jadhav in the past.
“It is clear that Pakistan’s approach to this matter continues to be obstructive and insincere. It has not only violated its assurance to the ICJ to fully implement the 2019 judgment but also failed to act in accordance with its own Ordinance,” the MEAsaid.
Islamabad claims that Kulbhushan Jadhav had refused to file an appeal in the Islamabad High Court against the death sentence ordered by a military court despite an offer to do so. New Delhi had responded angrily, accusing Pakistan of continuing with a farce that it had been playing for the last four years. New Delhi says Jadhav was sentenced to death at a farcical trial by a military court.
Over the past year, India has requested Pakistan more than 12 times to provide unimpeded, unhindered and unconditional consular access to Shri Kulbhushan Jadhav, who remains incarcerated in Pakistani custody since 2016 — to no avail.