Govt likely considering high-value prisoner swap to get Kulbhushan Jadhav back

The first option is to exercise the legal route and file an “appeal” against the decision of the military court. In this case, the appeal can only be filed by the accused.

Written by Shubhajit Roy | New Delhi | Updated: April 13, 2017 8:58 am
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The government is exploring various legal and diplomatic options, including a high-value prisoner swap, in an all-out bid to save Indian national Kulbhushan Jadhav, who has been awarded the death sentence by a military court in Pakistan on charges of spying, South Block sources told The Indian Express Wednesday. Top officials from the National Security Council Secretariat and the ministries of external and home affairs have been tasked with formulating India’s response, said sources. The first option is to exercise the legal route and file an “appeal” against the decision of the military court. In this case, the appeal can only be filed by the accused.

Sources said that if Pakistan does not allow that to happen, the government is exploring one of three routes to appeal in the Supreme Court of Pakistan: by Jadhav’s family, which has the legal humanitarian right to do so; by the government, citing protection from harm to an Indian citizen overseas; by prominent human rights activists and organisations in Pakistan, citing human rights violations. Sources said the government is preparing a list of individuals and organisations in Pakistan, who could be approached for the last route.

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The second option is the “diplomatic” way, which will require exploring all the leverage New Delhi has in its arsenal, said sources. One move would be to identify a “high-value” Pakistani prisoner in India’s custody and negotiate a trade-off.

Another approach on the diplomatic front would be to identify and negotiate on an issue in a manner that could benefit Islamabad. However, some in the establishment have warned of the risk involved in getting into a “quid pro quo” situation on a bilateral issue. “While an individual or a group of individuals is a more pragmatic option, linking Jadhav’s fate with an issue is not advisable,” said sources.

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The third option, sources said, would be to involve international partners. In this context, sources said, a conversation between National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and his US counterpart H R McMaster cannot be ruled out — the American NSA is expected to meet with Pakistan’s NSA Nasser Janjua.

As of now, said sources, all routes are being mapped out, with Doval and Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar asking officials to prepare a dossier on Jadhav’s options. Sources confirmed that “no outreach” has taken place so far between the two sides. However, with Pakistan’s Defence Minister and senior officials indicating that Jadhav will have legal appeals at his disposal, and the Pakistan Army yet to specify a date for the death sentence to be executed, New Delhi is hopeful that there is “scope” for negotiation.

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