Kulbhushan Jadhav. Photo from confession video, via YouTube.
Kulbhushan Jadhav. Photo from confession video, via YouTube.

Ties between India and Pakistan have hit rock bottom after a military court in Pakistan on Monday handed down a death sentence to an Indian national for spying and running a terror network to destabilize his country’s neighbor.

So far, the court has not shared the evidence it has used against the accused, Kulbhushan Jadhav. The secrecy of the trial has raised doubts.

By way of contrast, the trial in India of Ajmal Kasab – the lone Pakistani terrorist captured alive after the 2008 Mumbai serial attacks – was fair and open. In May 2010, he was found guilty of 80 offenses, including waging war against India, and he was hanged in November 2012.

In the case of Jadhav, soon after his arrest, in March 2016, he was shown on a video “confessing” to organizing espionage and sabotage activities in Balochistan and Karachi with the support of India’s Research and Analysis Wing, a spy agency. India says the video was doctored.

However, Pakistan’s sudden – and unprecedented – sentence counters New Delhi’s narrative that it has all along been the victim of one-way Pakistan-sponsored terrorism. Monday’s ruling is intended to show India in bad light before the world.

Addressing the Upper House of Parliament on Tuesday, India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj condemned the ruling and warned Pakistan of consequences if it hangs Jadhav. She said such an act would be viewed as a case of premeditated murder, adding that India will exert pressure on Pakistan to stop the execution.

In the 13 months following Jadhav’s arrest, however, India arguably made no serious political, diplomatic or military moves for his release.

Calling Jadhav “son of India,” Swaraj said he was the victim of a Pakistani plot to defame India in order to deflect international attention from Islamabad’s record of sponsoring terrorism.

Conflicting claims

The two nuclear-armed South Asian neighbors hold diametrically opposite views on this “spy” case.

India says Jadhav was a retired officer conducting his own business in Iran, from where it insists he was kidnapped. Records show he joined the National Defence Academy in 1987 and retired from service in December 2001.

Pakistan believes Jadhav was still a naval officer and and maintains that he was arrested in Balochistan.

India views the trial as farcical since there was no credible evidence against Jadhav. It says Pakistan trumped up charges against him to malign India and, furthermore, that it violated the Vienna convention by denying consular access to Jadhav despite repeated requests.

For Pakistan, Jadhav is a prize catch. According to Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, he was trying to disrupt development of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. India denies the charge.

The sentence comes at a time when tensions between Pakistan and India are already running high after an attack by suspected Pakistan militants on an Indian military camp in Uri, Kashmir, on September 19 last year and “surgical strikes” by India across the control line 10 days later.

Clashes are bound to escalate on the border along Kashmir if Pakistan hangs Jadhav.

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