The Inter Service Public Relations (ISPR) Pakistan, which is the media wing of the Pakistani Armed Forces, on Monday announced that an Indian national named Kulbushan Sudhir Jadhav had been awarded the death penalty after being tried through the Field General Court Martial (FGCM) under Pakistan Army Act (PAA). This death sentence was also confirmed by Pakistani COAS Gen Bajwa.
Pakistan has alleged that Jadhav was tasked by the RAW to plan, coordinate and organize espionage/sabotage activities aiming to destabilize and wage war against Pakistan by impeding the efforts of Law Enforcement Agencies for restoring peace in Balochistan and Karachi. Pakistan reportedly found him guilty based on their supposed claim that he had confessed before a court and magistrate. Jadhav was arrested on 3rd March 2016 from Mashkel, Balochistan but his arrest was not announced until 24th March.
So moving away from the Pakistani army’s propaganda, let’s try look at the issue via another lens, the response by the Indian establishment to the whole affair. The Indian Govt even though had acknowledged that he was a retired Navy officer, it had categorically denied that he was in any way connected to the govt or on any ‘spying’ mission in Pakistan.
What casts further aspersions over the Pakistan’s ‘trial’ is the fact that the Indian officials were denied access to Jadhav throughout the process. It was reported that the New Delhi had sought consular access to Jadhav by issuing as many as six note verbales (letters of protest) to the Pakistan foreign ministry.
Based on available information, Jadhav was born on 16 April 1970 and joined the NDA in 1987. He was commissioned in the Engineering branch of the Navy in 1991. His family currently resides in the Hiranandani complex in Powai. Jadhav’s father Sudhir Jadhav retired as the ACP in Mumbai.
At the time of his arrest, Jadhav was reportedly carrying a passport with the name Hussein Mubarak Patel, this according to Indian officials meant that he wasn’t a spy, for had he been one he wouldn’t have been carrying an Indian passport.
After Jadhav was arrested, it was reported that Jadhav’s family members had claimed that he had quit the Navy and was engaged in a legitimate business of cargo transportation, ferrying cargo between ports in Iran. The family after hearing of Jadhav’s arrest had flown to Delhi to meet with the MEA officials about a possible course of action.
Reports claimed that Pakistani authorities arrested Jadhav after they caught him talking fluently in Marathi with his family even though he was posing as Husain Mubarak Patel, a Muslim of non-Marathi origin.
Pakistan around that time also released an alleged video of Kulbushan Jadhav where he is seen confessing about him being a RAW agent who was in Balochistan to destabilize the region. Though reports have stated that a forensic examination of the video conducted by the Indian intelligence agencies had found the video to be heavily edited with the audio being spliced up is several places. There were also instances where Jadhav’s facial expression didn’t match the voice over. The three-week gap between the arrest and the announcement also led to the speculation of Pakistanis using coercive measures for extracting the so-called confession statement.
What raised further red flags was the fact that the video was released by the Pakistanis on 29th March last year, which was incidentally the same day a Pakistani team was in Pathankot to investigate the attack on the Indian Air base.
There were also inconsistencies in the statements by the Pakistani officials. The Home Minister of Pakistan’s Balochistan province, Sarfaraz Bugti had first announced that Jadhav was picked up from Chaman but General Asim Bajwa announced that Jadhav was arrested from Saravan. The distance between Chaman and Saravan is about 873 KM. There were also reports which claimed that Jadhav, who had a valid residential permit in the Chabahar Free Trade Zone till June of last year, might have been lured into Pakistan and arrested thereafter.
In response to the Pakistan’s decision to award death penalty, India has responded by calling the proceedings as farcical and stated that if the sentence is indeed carried out, it would amount to premeditated murder. It remains to be seen what would be India’s response be in the coming days and whether there’s any glimmer of hope that Jadhav might return alive to the Indian shores again.