A long-awaited meeting of Indian officials with Kulbhushan Jadhav ended inconclusively on Thursday after Pakistan refused to give them unimpeded consular access, the external affairs ministry said on Thursday evening. New Delhi has lodged a formal protest with Islamabad.
Indian officials had made nearly a dozen requests to Islamabad over the last one 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. Jadhav, a former naval officer turned businessman, was quietly sentenced to death by a military court in April 2017. He had gone missing the previous year from Iran and turned up in the custody of Pakistani security agencies some time later who accused him of espionage.
Thursday’s consular access to Jadhav was the second time that he had been allowed to meet Indian officials. The first was on September 2, 2019.
As had happened the first time that Pakistan gave Indian diplomats access to Jadhav, 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 also spotted a camera that was being used to record their conversation. Officials also reported 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 these circumstances, the Indian officials concluded that the consular access being offered by Pakistan was “neither meaningful nor credible”. They left the venue after lodging their protest.
In May 2020, Pakistan passed an Ordinance, ostensibly to comply with the order of the International Court of Justice. It envisages the consular officer of the Indian High Commission filing a petition before a high court to seek review of Jadhav’s death sentence. In that context, 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, pointing that it was already evident that Jadhav has been repeatedly intimidated 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 judgement, but also failed to act in accordance with its own Ordinance,” New Delhi said.
India’s focus on getting Jadhav legal representation comes against the backdrop of claims by Islamabad 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 twelve times to provide unimpeded, unhindered and unconditional consular access to Shri Kulbhushan Jadhav, who remains incarcerated in Pakistani custody since 2016.