India is exploring various options to save former navy officer Kulbhushan Jadhav, who was recently sentenced to death – in a secret trial by a Pakistani military court – for espionage and sabotage.
Jadhav, 46, may be executed in four months. Pakistan’s army chief, Qamar Javed Bajwa, has ruled out any compromise in the case. New Delhi has to quickly explore its diplomatic and legal options.
India can do any or all of the following: block visas to Pakistani nationals; stop movement of goods across the border; issue a travel advisory to Pakistan-bound tourists; gather support from international groups against Islamabad’s rights abuses in Balochistan; call for a fresh, free and fair trial of Jadhav; and offer to swap spies like the USSR and US did during the Cold War era.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi can also request his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif get Jadhav released. When Jadhav was arrested in March last year, it was seen as a move by Pakistan’s military to checkmate Sharif’s probe into leads provided by India on the terror attack on Pathankor Air Force station.
In terms of any possible exchange of spies, at least 27 Pakistanis are serving jail terms in India for espionage, and Islamabad may be hoping to use Jadhav as a bargaining chip to get some of them released.
However the immediate cause for pronouncing the death sentence on him is more likely to be the disappearance of a former Pakistani intelligence official, Lt. Col. Muhammad Habib Zahir. According to the Pakistani foreign office, he was arrested by Indian intelligence officials in Nepal for anti-Indian activities.
The secrecy and speed with which Jadhav’s trial was conducted based on his “confession” shows Pakistan has something to hide. The choice of an army officer as the accused’s defense further underlines what a farce it was.
The big question is whether Jadhav’s confession was voluntary or made undress duress. The heavily edited video clip of his confession indicates it was doctored.
India wants clarity. It wants consular access, copies of the charge-sheet and the military court’s verdict. While the kangaroo court accused Jadhav of staging attacks in Karachi and Baluchistan, it revealed nothing about his networks there. A man could not have singlehandedly conducted such massive operations.
Jadhav was carrying his Indian passport when he was arrested. No spy would carry his original travel documents with him.
His arrest in Balochistan – as claimed by Pakistan intelligence officials – is also questionable. Soon after that, Gunter Mulack –
a German diplomat and scholar – told a seminar in Karachi that the Indian was abducted by the Taliban before being sold to Pakistani officials.
Sharif’s advisor on foreign affairs, Sartaj Aziz, stated in the country’s senate late last year that the evidence against Jadhav was insufficient to take his case to the UN.
The secrecy and speed with which Jadhav’s trial was conducted based on his “confession” shows Pakistan has something to hide. The choice of an army officer as the accused’s defense further underlines what a farce it was
By denying consular access to Jadhav, Pakistan has violated the right of Indian officers to visit him, converse and correspond with him and to arrange for legal representation.
Pakistan can court-martial a local, not a foreigner. Even if Jadhav is a spy, a civil court should have tried him.
With no consular access to Jadhav, India is clueless about his location and state of health. Hoping against hope, it is seeking consular access yet again after 13 such requests have already been rejected by Pakistani authorities.
Pakistan insists India cannot be allowed consular access to a convict. According to reports from Islamabad, the only option left for Jadhav is for the Supreme Court of Pakistan to be moved against his death sentence. And if the military court’s ruling is upheld by the top court, then Presidential clemency would be his only hope.
Jadhav has 40 days to appeal against the ruling before the Supreme Court. However, since Pakistan has barred its lawyers from defending him, this seems a forlorn hope.