In an offer that has taken India by surprise, Pakistan on Friday said it would arrange a meeting between Kulbhushan Jadhav, the former Indian Navy officer held on espionage charges, and his wife “on humanitarian grounds”. On April 25, two weeks after Jadhav was sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court, India had sought visas for Jadhav’s parents, Sudhir and Avantika Jadhav, to visit Pakistan.
Sources in the Ministry of External Affairs said the government was deliberating on how to respond to the latest offer, considering that it has not sought a visa for Jadhav’s wife, whose identity has not been revealed.
The ministry is yet to officially respond on the issue. But sources described Pakistan’s offer as an attempt to counter India’s argument at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague that Jadhav was not granted consular access in violation of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. On May 18, a 10-member ICJ bench had restrained Pakistan from executing Jadhav till it adjudicates on the case.
On the flip side, sources said, Pakistan’s “offer” is the latest indication that Jadhav is “still alive”.
Issuing a statement, in which it misspelt Jadhav’s name twice, Pakistan’s foreign ministry said, “The Government of Pakistan has decided to arrange a meeting of Commander Kulbhudhan Jhadev with his wife, in Pakistan, purely on humanitarian grounds. A Note Verbale to this effect has been sent to the Indian High Commission in Islamabad, today.”
Pakistan has referred repeatedly to Jadhav as “Commander”, in a bid to imply that he was a serving Indian official, contrary to India’s position that he was a retired defence personnel who became a businessman.
The Pakistan foreign ministry said, “Commander Kalbushan Jhadev alias, Hussain Mubarak Patel, a serving Commander of the Indian Navy, working with Indian Intelligence Agency/RAW was apprehended by Pakistan law enforcement agencies on March 3, 2016 after he illegally crossed over into Pakistan. He confessed before a Magistrate and the Court that he was tasked by RAW to plan, coordinate and organize espionage, terrorist and sabotage activities aimed at destabilizing and waging war against Pakistan.”
These charges have been rejected by India, with the government maintaining that Jadhav was a businessman based in Chabahar in Iran, and was kidnapped from that country.
The Indian side had pursued various legal remedies available under the Pakistan Army Act 1952 in the case, and applied for visas for Jadhav’s parents through the External Affairs Ministry. “No response to these applications has been received till date,” said sources.
Jadhav’s family has also filed an appeal and submitted a petition to the Federal Government of Pakistan under Section 131 of the Pakistan Army Act 1952. The appeal and petition were handed over by the Indian High Commissioner in Islamabad to Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary in Islamabad on April 26.
A day later, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj wrote a letter to the then Advisor to the Pakistan Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs, in which she requested his personal intervention regarding visas for the “parents”. The government also sought consular access to Jadhav several times, but in vain.
Meanwhile, sources in the Pakistan government said it has started the process of filing its plea in response to India’s representation in the ICJ against the death sentence to Jadhav. The ICJ had asked Pakistan to submit its response by December 13 before the court could start further proceedings. India had submitted its representation on September 13.
On October 5, the Pakistan Army said it was close to reaching a decision on the mercy petition of Jadhav. India has warned Pakistan of consequences and damage to bilateral ties if the execution, which it described as “premeditated murder”, was carried out.