New Delhi: India and Pakistan once again went on a parallel narrative on the consular access granted to Kulbhushan Jadhav, who is serving a death sentence in Pakistan. While the Imran Khan government said Jadhav was Thursday granted “unimpeded and uninterrupted” consular access, as sought by India, New Delhi said it was neither unimpeded, nor unhindered or unconditional.
According to the Ministry of External Affairs, Pakistan’s approach to Jadhav’s case “continues to be obstructive and insincere” even as India believes Islamabad has violated the 2019 judgment pronounced by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague.
“The Consular Officers were not given unimpeded, unhindered and unconditional access to Shri Jadhav. On the contrary, Pakistani officials with an intimidating demeanour were present in close proximity of Shri Jadhav and Consular Officers despite the protests of the Indian side,” Anurag Srivastava, Spokesperson, Ministry of External Affairs, said Thursday.
Deputy High Commissioner Gaurav Ahluwalia and another official from the mission met Jadhav at a sub-jail at an undisclosed location Thursday.
According to the report received from the officials, Srivastava said, it was “evident from a camera that was visible that the conversation with Shri Jadhav was being recorded”.
“Shri Jadhav himself 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,” he said.
India said the consular access being offered by Pakistan was “neither meaningful nor credible”, thus, after “lodging a protest, they left the venue”.
‘Any conversation must necessarily take place in privacy’
Jadhav, a retired Indian Navy officer, was sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court on charges of espionage and terrorism in April 2017. Subsequently, India had filed a case before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague in May 2017 to get consular access to Jadhav.
Last year, when Indian officials met him after consular access was granted for the first time, the Ministry of External Affairs had stated that Jadhav was under “extreme pressure” to parrot a false narrative.
The consular access Thursday came after India made a fresh appeal to Pakistan for a second consular access, which would be “unimpeded and unrestricted” since Jadhav has a deadline to meet to file a review petition of his death sentence.
Srivastava also said External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar spoke to Jadhav’s family about Thursday’s developments.
“We reiterate our commitment to ensure the safe return of Shri Jadhav to India and will decide on a future course of action in the light of the events today,” the MEA said.
India has to meet the 19 July deadline to file the review petition of Jadhav’s death sentence by responding to an ordinance, failing which Jadhav will have to rely on the mercy petition he had filed before Pakistan Army Chief Qamar Bajwa in June 2017 after his death sentence was pronounced.
According to the MEA, Pakistan passed the ordinance “ostensibly to comply” with the order of the ICJ. Thereafter, it was decided that the consular officer of the High Commission of India will be filing a petition before a high court for the relevant review and reconsideration.
“In that context, the contacts and conversations between the Consular Officer and Shri Jadhav assume great importance. 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. It is already evident that Shri Jadhav has been intimidated repeatedly in the past, including in being made to express his alleged disinclination to seek a review,” Srivastava added.
‘Unimpeded and uninterrupted’ consular access given: Pakistan
The Pakistan foreign ministry had earlier in the day said it granted “unimpeded and uninterrupted consular access” to officials of the high commission upon India’s request.
Pakistan said it gave the first consular access on 2 September 2019 under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (VCCR) 1963.
Jadhav’s mother and wife had earlier met him on 25 December, 2017.
“Commander Jadhav is in Pakistan’s custody following his arrest from Balochistan in a counter-intelligence operation on 3 March 2016. During investigation, Commander Jadhav confessed to his involvement in terrorist activities inside Pakistan that resulted in loss of many precious human lives. He also made important revelations about RAW’s role in sponsoring state terrorism in Pakistan,” Pakistan said in a statement.
It added, “Pakistan remains committed to fully implementing the International Court of Justice (ICJ)’s judgment of 17 July 2019. It is hoped that India will cooperate with the Pakistan court in giving full effect to the said judgement.”