India says consular access to Kulbhushan Jadhav given by Pakistan was not meaningful

PTI

Indian prisoner in Islamabad, Kulbhushan Jadhav, is seen meeting his mother and wife on December 25, 2017.

Indian prisoner in Islamabad, Kulbhushan Jadhav, is seen meeting his mother and wife on December 25, 2017.

Pakistan on Thursday provided consular access to Indian prisoner Kulbhushan Jadhav, but the Indian government said the access was “neither meaningful nor credible,” and the death row prisoner appeared visibly under stress.

Jadhav, the 50-year-old retired Indian Navy officer, was sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court on charges of espionage and terrorism in April 2017. India approached the International Court of Justice against Pakistan for denial of consular access to Jadhav and challenging the death sentence.

The Hague-based ICJ ruled in July last year that Pakistan must undertake an “effective review and reconsideration” of the conviction and sentence of Jadhav and also to grant consular access to India without further delay.

On Thursday, Pakistan Foreign Office claimed that two consular officers of the Indian High Commission in Islamabad were provided “unimpeded and uninterrupted” consular access to Jadhav.

Though Pakistan Foreign ministry had assured India that the consular access would be unimpeded, unhindered and unconditional, it turned out that the arrangements of the meeting were not in accordance with the assurances made by Islamabad, External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said in New Delhi.

“Neither the environment nor the arrangements of the meeting were in accordance with the assurances of Pakistan,” he said in a statement.

“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, Srivastava said.

It was also evident from a camera that was visible that the conversation with Jadhav was being recorded, he 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 MEA spokesperson said.

The Consular Officers could not engage Jadhav on his legal rights and were prevented from obtaining his written consent for arranging his legal representation, he said.

“In the light of these circumstances, the Indian Consular Officers came to the conclusion that the consular access being offered by Pakistan was neither meaningful nor credible. After lodging a protest, they left the venue,” the MEA spokesperson said.

The second consular access provided by Pakistan on Thursday came days ahead of a deadline to file a review petition in a court here against his conviction by a military court.

The first consular access was provided by Pakistan on September 2, 2019. The mother and wife of Jadhav were allowed to meet him on December 25, 2017.

“Pakistan remains committed to fully implementing the International Court of Justice’s judgment of 17 July 2019. It is hoped that India will cooperate with the Pakistan court in giving full effect to the said judgement, the statement of the Pakistan Foreign Office said.

Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi later claimed that the two officials of the Indian high commission who came to meet Jadhav left without hearing him.

Qureshi claimed that Pakistan granted consular access to India according to the terms agreed upon.

“They had objected to the glass that had been placed in the middle so we removed it. They had also objected to audio and video recordings, so that was also not done. We fulfilled all their requests, but still they left,” he said.

Later, addressing a press conference, Foreign Office spokesperson Aisha Farooqui said India had gone to the ICJ and Pakistan was taking all the steps necessary for implementation of the judgment.

She said Pakistan had issued the International Court of Justice Review and Reconsideration Ordinance 2020 on May 20 which provides a 60 day time limit to file the review petition, starting from the date of issuance of the Ordinance.

India on Thursday said it was clear that Pakistan’s approach to the Jadhav’s case continues to be “obstructive and insincere.”

“It has not only violated its assurance to the ICJ to fully implement the 2019 judgement, but also failed to act in accordance with its own Ordinance,” the MEA spokesperson said.

“We reiterate our commitment to ensure the safe return of Jadhav to India and will decide on a future course of action in the light of the events today,” Srivastava added.

Pakistan claims that its security forces arrested Jadhav from the restive Balochistan province on March 3, 2016 after he reportedly entered from Iran.

India maintains that Jadhav was kidnapped from Iran where he had business interests after retiring from the Navy.