India has said that its national Kulbhushan Jadhav was “visibly under stress” as Pakistan did not permit a free conversation between him and the consular officers and they were not given “unimpeded, unhindered and unconditional” access.
External Affairs Ministry spokesperson said in a statement that the conversation between Jadhav and consular officers was being recorded as evident from a camera and the consular access offered by Pakistan was neither “meaningful nor credible”.
The spokesperson said that Pakistani officials with an intimidating demeanour were present in close proximity of Jadhav and consular officers despite the protests of the Indian side. He said Jadhav himself was visibly under stress and indicated that clearly to the consular officers.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar apprised the family of Jadhav of the developments. The spokesperson said that the government was committed to ensuring the safe return of Jadhav to Indi and “will decide on a future course of action in the light of the events today”.
“The consular officers were not given unimpeded, unhindered and unconditional access to Jadhav. On the contrary, Pakistani officials with an intimidating demeanour were present in close proximity of Jadhav and consular officers despite the protests of the Indian side. It was also evident from a camera that was visible that the conversation with Jadhav was being recorded,” the statement said.
“Jadhav himself was visibly under stress and indicated that clearly to the consular officers. The arrangements did not permit a free conversation between them. The consular officers could not engage Jadhav on his legal rights and were prevented from obtaining his written consent for arranging his legal representation,” it added.
The statement said “the Indian consular officers came to the conclusion that the consular access being offered by Pakistan was neither meaningful nor credible in the light of these circumstances and left the venue after lodging a protest”.
The spokesperson said that Pakistan’s approach to this matter continues to be “obstructive and insincere”. “It has not only violated its assurance to the ICJ to fully implement the 2019 judgment, but also failed to act in accordance with its own ordinance,” the statement said.
The statement said that over the past year, India has requested Pakistan more than 12 times to provide unimpeded, unhindered and unconditional consular access to Jadhav, who remains incarcerated in Pakistani custody since 2016.
“This consular access is of utmost importance as it is the basis for a process of effective review and reconsideration ordered by the ICJ in July 2019 of the conviction and sentence of Jadhav by a Pakistani military tribunal,” it said.
In May 2020, Pakistan passed an ordinance, ostensibly to comply with the order of the International Court of Justice.
“It inter-alia envisaged the consular officer of the High Commission of India filing a petition before a High Court for the relevant review and reconsideration. In that context, the contacts and conversations between the Consular Officer and Jadhav assume great importance,” the statement said.
India recently requested the Pakistani side for an unimpeded, unhindered and unconditional consular access to be provided on July 13. Pakistan was asked to ensure that the meeting is held in an atmosphere free from fear of retribution and without the presence of any Pakistani official in the vicinity of Jadhav and the Indian consular officials.
Pakistan was also requested to not record (video and audio) the meeting. The statement said that despite Pakistan’s assurance of ensuring unhindered consular access to Jadhav, the environment and the arrangements of the meeting were not in accordance with the assurances of Islamabad.
“After extensive discussions, the Pakistan side conveyed that they were ready to organise consular access on July 16. We were assured that this consular access would be unimpeded, unhindered and unconditional. On the basis of this assurance by the Pakistani Foreign Ministry, two consular officers of the High Commission proceeded to the meeting with Jadhav.
“Regrettably, however, neither the environment nor the arrangements of the meeting were in accordance with the assurances of Pakistan,” the statement said.
The spokesperson said that any conversation between Jadhav and High Commission officials must necessarily take place in privacy and without the presence of any Pakistani official or recording by Pakistan.
“It is only then that Jadhav can speak freely without any concerns of reprisal as he remains in Pakistani custody after the meeting. It is already evident that Jadhav has been intimidated repeatedly in the past, including in being made to express his alleged disinclination to seek a review,” the spokesperson said.
Pakistan claims that Jadhav was arrested from Balochistan in 2016 on charges of espionage. India has rejected Pakistan’s allegations and said he was kidnapped from the Iranian port of Chabahar. In early 2017, a Pakistani military court sentenced him to death. In May 2017, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) stayed his execution.
In July last year, the ICJ, by a vote of 15-1, had upheld India’s claim that Pakistan has committed an egregious violation of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations on several counts.