India has retaliated after Pakistani army chief approved the execution of Indian national Kulbhushan Jadhav for alleged “espionage and sabotage” activities. India has decided not to release about a dozen Pakistani prisoners scheduled to be repatriated on Wednesday. India also summoned Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit on the matter.
The government feels that it is not the right time for the release of Pakistani prisoners, official sources said in Delhi.
The prisoners were to be released as part of the practice by India and Pakistan to repatriate nationals lodged in each other’s jail after they complete their sentence.
India called Jadhav’s sentence “premeditated murder” if Pakistan goes ahead with the death sentence “without observing basic norms of law and justice”.
The death sentence to Jadhav, 46, was confirmed by Pakistan army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa after the Field General Court Martial (FGCM) found him guilty of “all the charges”, said the military’s media wing Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) in Rawalpindi.
“The spy has been tried through Field General Court Martial under Pakistan Army Act and awarded death sentence,” the court said.
According to the ISPR statement, Jadhav, a Commander in the Indian Navy, “confessed” before a Magistrate and the court that he was “tasked by RAW to plan, coordinate and organise espionage/sabotage activities aiming to destabilise and wage war against Pakistan by impeding the efforts of Law Enforcement Agencies for restoring peace in Balochistan and Karachi.”
Jadhav was “arrested” on March 3 last year by Pakistani security forces in the restive Balochistan province after he reportedly entered from Iran. Pakistan has alleged that Jadhav was “a serving officer” in the Indian Navy and deputed to the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW).
The Pakistan Army had released a “confessional video” of Jadhav after his arrest.
India has acknowledged that Jadhav served with the navy but denied he has any connection with the government.
“The individual has no link with government since his premature retirement from Indian Navy,” the External Affairs Ministry had said in a statement in March last year.
India had demanded Consular access to Jadhav, but Pakistan repeatedly denied Indian officials access to him.
The ISPR statement, however, said Jadhav, alias Hussein Mubarak Patel, was “provided with defending officer as per legal provisions”.
Pakistan’s decision is expected to further strain the ties between India and Pakistan. The two countries have been at loggerheads over several issues, including on Pakistan’s support to terrorism, since the terror attack on an Indian army base in Uri in Kashmir in September last year by Pakistan-based militants killed 18 Indian soldiers.
In retaliation, India had launched “surgical strikes” against militant “launchpads” in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
(With inputs from PTI)