The Field Court Martial General of the Pakistan Army announced that it had sentenced former Indian naval officer Kulbhushan Jadhav to death for alleged espionage activities in Balochistan. In a widely circulated video in Pakistan (that was also referenced by the New York Times), he was seen confessing for his ‘crimes’ before magistrates. The video has now disappeared.
Since his arrest in March 2016, New Delhi has issued six note verbales to their Pakistani counterparts for granting consular access to Jadhav, but the trial and its proceedings have been kept stubbornly secret all along. It should also be noted that instead of an open criminal court, he was tried by a closed military tribunal.
After the death sentence was made public by the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), the Indian government has reacted very strongly to the kangaroo court justice and rushed nature of the trial meted out to Jadhav, The Indian government has denied he is a spy, though it admits he is a former naval officer, who runs a business out of Balochistan and Iran. “India has relentlessly sought access to Jadhav. And we don’t believe that he is a spy because had he been one, he wouldn’t have been carrying an Indian passport,” a source said. Jadhav’s Indian passport was in the name of Hussein Mubarak Patel. In a diplomatic move reserved for the most serious conflicts Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar summoned the Pakistani High Commissioner Abdul Basit to register strong protest, and served him a demarche which called the trial and sentencing of Jadhav an act of “premeditated murder”.
It should be noted that relations between the two nations have hit a particularly rough patch in recent times, especially under NDA rule. This arbitrary sentencing of Jadhav is not likely to help normalise relations between the two nations, and the vitriolic statements being passed on either side are unlikely to abate. The Indian government has decided to hit back by suspending the return of 12 Pakistani prisoners, but the Opposition asked the government if that was all it could do to help facilitate Jadhav’s return. Congress president’s son-in-law Robert Vadra was quoted saying “For the sake of entire nation, the Government should take every step to save Jadhav’s life.” Similarly, Congress spokesman Randeep Surjewala also said that not only should the PM intervene, he should also build support for an international diplomatic offensive.
Sentiments are high in India, with both Houses of the Parliament issuing a united message of solidarity with Jadhav, and even prominent people expressing outrage at Pakistan and hope that he won’t become another Sarabjit. On the other hand, it seemed most Pakistanis on twitter were convinced that Jadhav was a spy and the sentencing was must.