Indian naval officer Kulbhushan Jadhav has been sentenced to death on Monday by Pakistani Field General Court Martial after finding him “guilty of all charges”. The Pakistan Army had also released a “confessional video” of Jadhav after his arrest. But, the video has multiple quick edits and the audio appears to go out of sync from time to time, which indicates it was likely to have been shot under pressure. Also Jadhav’s facial expressions, at many instances, do not match to what is being said.
Kulbhushan Jadhav, 46, was arrested in Balochistan in March last year “espionage and subversive activities”. India reacting strongly to this sentencing said that if the ruling carried out, “the government and people of India will regard it as a case of premeditated murder”. India accepts Jadhav to be an Indian national but also claims that he has no links to its research wing. Jadhav was a former Indian Navy commander and was reportedly carrying out a business from Iran. He was accused by Pakistan of spying in its restive province of Balochistan.
Jadhav’s family hails from Sangli, Maharashtra and his father is Sudhir Jadhav, who retired as a Assistant Commissioner in Mumbai Police officer. His uncle Subhash Jadhav, is also a Police officer and was part of the investigation team probing the hit-and-run case against Bollywood actor Salman Khan.
Over the last one year, New Delhi submitted a note verbale to Islamabad “13 times” for “consular access” — the first step towards establishing the identity of an Indian national and providing legal aid — but the Pakistan government denied the requests. India sought consular access to Jadhav on March 25, March 30, May 6, June 10, July 11 and December 19 last year, and on January 19, February 2 (twice), February 3, March 3, March 21 and March 31 this year.
India has provided fair trials to more than 20 Pakistanis arrested for espionage. Though several suspected Pakistani spies have been arrested in India over the years, none had been sentenced to death. Pakistan had hanged an Indian, Sheikh Shamim, on charges of spying in 1999 and had sentenced others to death over the same charge.
Taking the first reprisal step, India in the response of this death sentence, New Delhi is quietly moving ahead with curbs on visas for Pakistani nationals visiting India, with artists, singers and actors likely to be the first group to be singled out for maximum visibility and impact.
India has maintained from the very first day that Jadhav is an “innocent Indian kidnapped by Pakistan”. However, Pakistan appears to have hardened its stance on the issue with its Army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa telling Corps Commanders at the Rawalpindi GHQ Thursday that “no compromise shall be made on such anti-State acts”, while referring to Jadhav’s case.
The whole story of Kulbhushan Jadhav is under the clouds of mystery and uncertainty, but it seems clear that Pakistan wants to send a very strong message to India.