The meeting of Kulbhushan Jadhav with his wife and mother became a raging diplomatic issue between the two countries on Tuesday after India slammed Pakistan for violating mutual understandings on the meeting. India, in an official statement, said that the Indian national appeared coerced and under considerable stress during the tightly-controlled interaction.
Pakistan went so far as to have the mangalsutra, bangles and bindi of his mother and wife removed before they could meet him, the external affairs ministry said in a statement.
Also, the ministry said that most of Jadhav’s remarks were clearly tutored and designed “to perpetuate the false narrative” of his alleged spying in Pakistan, it said in a no-holds-barred statement against Islamabad’s conduct. Summing up its anger, India said the manner in which Pakistan conducted Jadhav’s meeting on Monday with his family violated the letter and spirit of understandings that the two countries had.
Countering Pakistan’s contention that the meeting was a humanitarian concession, India’s statement said “this exercise lacked any credibility.”
“From the feedback we have received of the meeting, it appears that Jadhav was under considerable stress and speaking in an atmosphere of coercion,” the MEA statement said. “We also regret that contrary to assurances, the overall atmosphere of the meeting was intimidating insofar as family members were concerned,” it said.
Family members, however, handled the situation with “great courage and fortitude,” the ministry said. The 47-year-old Jadhav’s “appearance also raises questions of his health and well being.”
The meeting, at the Pakistani foreign affairs ministry in Islamabad, took place after repeated requests by India for family access. Jadhav, who was captured in March, was sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court for alleged spying, an accusation that India has dismissed as concocted.
Calling India’s claims “baseless”, Pakistan claimed that his wife’s shoes were confiscated on security grounds as there was “something” in it. The Foreign Office in a statement said that Pakistan does not wish to indulge in a “meaningless battle of words” and categorically rejects India’s baseless “allegations and twists” about attitude of authorities during Jadhav’s meeting with his wife and mother.
“The Indian baseless allegations and twists, that come 24 hours later, about the visit of the wife and mother of Commander Jadhav, a convicted terrorist and spy, who has confessed to his crimes, are categorically rejected,” the statement said. “If Indian concerns were serious, the guests or the Indian DHC should have raised them during the visit, with the media, which was readily available, but at a safe distance, as requested by India,” it said.
“We do not wish to indulge in a meaningless battle of words. Our openness and transparency belies these allegations,” it said. Responding to India’s contentions that Jadhav’s wife’s shoes were not returned to her after the meeting, Foreign Office spokesman Muhammad Faisal told DawnNews that the shoes were confiscated on “security grounds”. “There was something in the shoe (of Jadhav’s wife),” Faisal told the daily, adding that the shoe is being investigated.
He said Jadhav’s wife had been provided replacement shoes and all her jewellery was returned to her. The spokesman said that the fact is that Jadhav’s mother “publicly thanked Pakistan for the humanitarian gesture, which was also recorded by the media.” “Nothing more needs to be said on the issue,” he said.
Bringing up the Kashmir issue in his statement, Faisal added, “One good deed should beget another, and such a decision should serve as a template for others to follow, including in Indian-occupied Kashmir, where innocent blood continues to be spilled.” The Foreign Office spokesperson also termed Jadhav as “the face of Indian terrorism in Pakistan.”
How Pakistan media covered the issue
The diplomatic strain over Jadhav’s meeting with his family grabbed headlines not just in India, but also in Pakistan. Almost all major Pakistani newspapers gave prominence to the issue and carried reports of the Foreign Office issuing statement after India claimed that Jadhav’s responses were “clearly tutoured” that the alleged spy was “under duress” during the meeting.
Geo News, Dawn, The Nation, The News International ran the stories on Mohammad Faisal, the Foreign Office spokesperson, rejecting Indian claims and clarifying that Pakistani authorities took the shoes of Jadhav’s wife as officials suspected the presence of a foreign object.
Chetankul, Jadhav’s wife, was given an alternate pair of shoes to wear after her shoes were removed, Geo News reported. According to the Foreign Office, Chetankul’s shoes were taken over after authorities felt there was something fixed in them. Quoting Faisal, the report further added that the shoes of Jadhav’s wife were kept for inspection, while all other belongings, including jewellery, was returned. Authorities were ascertaining whether the metallic object in the shoe was a camera or a recording chip.
Claiming that Pakistan permitted the visit “request totally on humanitarian grounds in line with Islamic principles and teachings”, Faisal told the media that the meeting had nothing to do with consular access. A medical report by the Saudi German Hospital Dubai was presented too, which claimed nothing was wrong with Jadhav. Another claim which was challenged by India.
A majority of the Pakistan media refrained from commenting on the issue except a couple of opinion pieces in a few dailies.
An oped in The News International says that for Pakistan Jadhav, “plainly remains a spy and terrorist who has been sentenced to death.” The oped postulates that India’s statement slamming Pakistan for violating “mutual understanding” was expected. “It is hard to predict how India would have reacted had they captured a Pakistani spy with similar credentials,” the oped said.
The oped in a not-so-veiled-attack took on the claims made by New Delhi and questions what would have they done in a similar situation. The fact that most of Pakistan was unhappy that their country allowed Jadhav (a terrorist in their country) to meet his family resonates throughut the article. At one point, the author quotes senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor who had said that “it is a step forward… On the other hand, the way in which it all unfolded was deeply unsatisfactory.”
Taunting the apparent higher moral ground being taken by India, the author wrote, “One wonders what would men like Mr Tharoor say to mothers, fathers, wives, siblings or children of those killed in activities conceived, coordinated and carried out by men like Kulbhushan Jadhav.”
“Doubts were immediately raised in Delhi that the video may have been shot under duress. Credibility of the medical report was questioned too. But Jadhav looked sharp and in shape. India and Indians should have waited before firing the doubt missiles for it were they who did not agree to Jadhav’s mother and wife speaking to media and telling their story. Indian officials were also not agreeable to the idea of Indian media being present and possibly asking some painful questions.”
The tone betrays the author’s apparent exasperation – possibly misplaced – that in the end, regardless of the amount of courtesy Pakistan rolled out, it was never going to be good enough for India, which seeks only to belittle its neighbour.
The editorial in The News International can be summed up in one sentence from the article: “But most Pakistanis want Jadhav punished for his sins and not let out like the notorious American Raymond Davis through a backdoor deal.”
Another editorial in The Nation commented on the “cacophony of opinions” circling the issue. The piece in The Nation took a more balanced view of the issue at hand and wrote, “Ultimately however, these are all irreconcilable opinions and each can be considered “correct” if viewed from their subjective angle.”
The timing of the Jadhav conundrum also comes at a time when Pakistan has been accused of cultivating terror on their soil and has been held responsible for not doing enough to control the growth of terrorism in the region. In the view of that, newspapers in the country calling Jadhav ‘face of Indian terrorism’ fits into the popular narrative and for Pakistan, like this piece pointed out, “Jadhav and his multiple confessions are a proof of Indian activities in the region.”
The Nation editorial lauds the Pakistan government’s attempts to do what was “necessary in the international scheme of things” and “ignoring the deafening cacophony to do what was necessary.”
Who is Jadhav?
Jadhav was convicted of conducting “subversive activities” for the Indian government in Pakistan and has been sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court on 10 April. Pakistani authorities had reportedly arrested Jadhav in what they termed as a counter intelligence operation in Mashkal, Balochistan on 3 March, 2016. He has remained in Pakistan’s custody ever since.
The curious case of Jadhav has seen many twists and turns within a short span of one year since his arrest. While the Pakistani side has repeatedly alleged that Jadhav is a Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) “spy” in Pakistan’s restive Balochistan province, India had categorically denied Islamabad’s charges.
According to a Firstpost report, Jadhav owned three properties under the alias Mubarak Patel in Mumbai. According to the report, he was learnt to be residing on Delisle Road for a while as well. He also had a house in Powai, but that was shut for the last one year, ever since Jadhav was jailed in Pakistan.
Though India has conceded right from the start that Jadhav was indeed an Indian national and a retired naval officer. The Indian side claims that Jadhav ran a legitimate business from Iran, and might have inadvertently crossed over to Paksitan. And that the Pakistani authorities had harassed him and charged him with spying.
However, according to the press statement put out by Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) – the media wing of Pakistani security forces – Pakistan has claimed that Jadhav was involved in coordinating and organising “espionage activities” with an intent to destabilise and wage a war against Pakistan, as reported by The Nation.