New Delhi: External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj on Thursday told Parliament that Pakistan had used the emotional meeting between Indian national Kulbhushan Jadhav, on death row in Pakistan, and his family this week to score propaganda points.
Swaraj also accused Pakistan of not following the spirit of the understanding reached between the two nations prior to Jadhav’s meeting with his wife and mother, the first after 22 months, on Monday.
On Swaraj’s appeal, leaders of all political parties in Rajya Sabha condemned the attitude of Pakistan. Vice-president and Rajya Sabha chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu said the entire House wanted the government to take steps for Jadhav’s release.
Jadhav was arrested by Pakistani authorities in 2016 and was later accused of fomenting trouble in the restive Balochistan province. India says Jadhav was on a business trip in Iran when he was kidnapped. Subsequently, Jadhav was sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court in April on charges of espionage and terrorism.
India approached the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in May to halt his execution, an appeal which was granted pending a final verdict. The ICJ is expected to hold another hearing on the case in the next few months.
Jadhav’s mother Avanti and wife Chetankul met him at Pakistan’s foreign office on Monday. India on Tuesday accused Pakistan of choreographing the meeting in an “intimidating atmosphere" and questioned why the shoes of his wife had been kept back after the meeting.
On reports of Pakistan finding a chip, or a camera or a recorder in the shoes, Swaraj said on Thursday that “nothing can be more absurd," noting that she had gone through several security checks travelling to Pakistan wearing the same shoes. Swaraj said India’s concern of Pakistan having a “mischievous intent" behind not returning the shoes of Jadhav’s wife had been justified.
“If that was the case (that a device had been found in the shoes) it could have been exposed then and there had Pakistan showed it to the media outside the venue… It is an absurdity beyond measure," Swaraj added.
“...it is a matter of regret that the meeting was organized beyond the understanding reached between the two nations. The emotional meeting was instead used as a weapon of propaganda by Pakistan," Swaraj said, briefing the Rajya Sabha.
“First of all, we had a clear understanding that media won’t be allowed near Jadhav’s mother and wife but Pakistani press was not just allowed to come near but they also made allegations against Jadhav," said Swaraj.
She said that in the name of security, Pakistani authorities had forced Jadhav’s mother and wife to change clothes before meeting him. They were also forced to remove their bangles, bindi and mangalsutra.
Jadhav’s mother told Pakistani officials that these were symbols of the fact that they were married women, but were still forced to remove them.
“And when she met Jadhav the first question he asked was about his father’s well-being as his mother was not wearing bindi and mangalsutra," Swaraj said.
Swaraj also said Jadhav’s family wanted to speak in Marathi but were stopped by Pakistani authorities; when they insisted, the intercom on which they communicated with Jadhav across a glass screen was disconnected.
She said Pakistani authorities did all this in the absence of India’s deputy high commissioner to Pakistan J.P. Singh, who had accompanied the family. The meeting had started without him being present.
“Only later he was taken… had it all happened in front of him he would have objected," Swaraj informed the House.
She also alleged that the car which was to take Jadhav’s family and J.P. Singh was also unnecessarily delayed, giving time to the Pakistani media to unsettle them.
The external affairs minister noted that Pakistan had said it had allowed the meeting in a humanitarian gesture; the reality is that it was a clear violation of the “human rights" of Jadhav’s family, she added.