Among the stream of messages, Wednesday condoling the death of former External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj was a heartfelt tribute from a family whose life her office had touched — with hope. The family of Kulbhushan Jadhav, who is in Pakistani custody, described Swaraj as “very humble, loving, caring and down to earth”, and said it was “deeply grieved” at the loss. Swaraj was the architect of a sustained diplomatic campaign that led last month to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) granting India consular access to Jadhav, the retired Navy officer who has been in Pakistan’s custody since March 2016.
On Wednesday, a statement issued by Jadhav’s parents and family, and read over the phone to The Indian Express, said: “Sushmaji was an emphatic and compassionate person. The whole world is witness to her efforts in bringing back so many Indians.
”She, the Indian Government and the BJP have put in a great effort in our son’s case. We met her on several occasions regarding his case. She made us feel very comfortable. She was very humble, loving, caring and down to earth. Because of this, she and the Ministry of External Affairs seemed like an extended family to us.
”On July 25, we met her. It was in the evening that she hosted us. She was very warm and hale and hearty that day. It is difficult to believe she is no more. We extend our sincere and heartfelt condolences to Bansuri and her father. Madam’s passing away is a great loss to the world, India, to BJP and her family. Time and words will fall short if we try to list her glory and goodness. We are deeply grieved.”
On July 25, Swaraj had tweeted a photograph of her with Jadhav’s parents Avanti and Sudhir, and wife Chetna. She was happy that day, the family recalled, even telling them not to thank her repeatedly, as she was only fulfilling her duty.
On Tuesday, just before she suffered a cardiac arrest, Swaraj had called Senior Advocate Harish Salve and asked him to collect his fee of Re 1 for representing India at the ICJ in the Jadhav case. India had moved the ICJ in May 2017 against the “farcical trial” by the military court of Pakistan, which sentenced Jadhav to death on charges of espionage and terrorism. India has maintained that Jadhav was kidnapped from Iran where he had business interests after retiring from the Navy. On July 17, in a major diplomatic victory for India, the ICJ granted consular access to Jadhav with the court also asking Pakistan to review the death sentence.