Pakistan’s approach to ex-Indian naval officer continues to be obstructive and insincere

India on Thursday expressed its unhappiness over denial of “unimpeded, unhindered and unconditional” consular access to retired Indian Navy officer Kulbhushan Jadhav by Pakistan despite assurances by the country’s Foreign Ministry.

“On the basis of this assurance by the Pakistani Foreign Ministry, two Consular Officers of the (Indian) 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,” Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said during a press briefing.

The MEA spokesperson said Pakistan was asked to ensure that the meeting was 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.

According to the MEA spokesperson, over the past year, India requested Pakistan more than twelve times to provide unimpeded, unhindered and unconditional consular access to Kulbhushan Jadhav, who remains incarcerated in Pakistani custody since 2016.

Following extensive discussions with the officials of the Pakistani Foreign Ministry, Indian officials were told to be “ready to organize consular access on July 16.”

“We were assured that this consular access (to Kulbhushan Jadhav) would be unimpeded, unhindered and unconditional,” Anurag Srivastava said

In spite of such categorical assurance, Pakistani officials with an intimidating demeanour were present in close proximity of Jadhav and Consular officers.

Not only that Indian Consular officers’ conversation with Jadhav was being recorded by a camera which was visible from even a distance.

“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,” the MEA spokesperson said.

Given such 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,” Anurag Srivastava added.

“It is clear 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 MEA spokesperson further added.

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. Any conversation between them 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 MEA spokesperson said.

A week earlier Pakistan claimed that Kulbhushan Jadhav refused to file an appeal in the Islamabad High Court against his conviction by a military court.

India claimed that Jadhav was coerced by Pakistan to forgo his rights to seek implementation of the judgment of the International Court of Justice

Pakistan set a new deadline of July 20 before Kulbhushan Jadhav for filing a review petition in the Islamabad High Court against his conviction.

It is this background that the Pakistan-based Indian High Commission had asked for consular access to the ex-Indian naval officer.