New Delhi: India on Tuesday accused Pakistan of choreographing the meeting between former Indian naval officer Kulbhushan Jadhav and his family in an “intimidating atmosphere" and questioned why the shoes of his wife were kept back after the meeting.
Raveesh Kumar, the official spokesperson for the ministry of external affairs (MEA), said that “under the pretext of security precautions, the cultural and religious sensibilities of family members were disregarded" and this “included removal of mangal sutra, bangles and bindi, as well as a change in attire that was not warranted by security.
For some inexplicable reason, despite her repeated requests, the shoes of the wife of Jadhav were not returned to her after the meeting, Kumar said.
India also said that it appeared Jadhav, 47, who is on the death penalty in Pakistan, was under “considerable stress" and was “speaking in an atmosphere of coercion." It said the exercise “lacked any credibility."
Jadhav met his mother Avanti and wife Chetankul on Monday after a nearly two-year period at the heavily guarded Pakistani foreign ministry office in Islamabad. He was separated from them by a glass screen and communicated with them on intercom. In a video recorded before the meeting, he thanked the Pakistan government for allowing the meeting to take place.
“From the feedback we have received of the meeting, it appears that Jadhav was under considerable stress and speaking in an atmosphere of coercion. Most of his remarks were clearly tutored and designed to perpetuate the false narrative of his alleged activities in Pakistan. His appearance also raises questions of his health and well-being," Kumar said in a statement.
“We also regret that contrary to assurances, the overall atmosphere of the meeting was intimidating insofar as family members were concerned. Family members, however, handled the situation with great courage and fortitude," added Kumar.
Jadhav was arrested by the Pakistani authorities in 2016 and was later accused of fomenting trouble in the restive Balochistan province. India says Jadhav was on a trip business 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 then 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.
The MEA spokesperson noted that the Monday meeting took place after requests by India for family access and prior to the meeting, India and Pakistan had been in touch through diplomatic channels.
“There were clear understandings between the two sides and the Indian side scrupulously abided by all its commitments. However, we note with regret that the Pakistani side conducted the meeting in a manner which violated the letter and spirit of our understandings," said Kumar.
The MEA spokesperson said Jadhav’s mother was prevented from talking in their mother tongue although this was clearly the natural medium of communication. “She was repeatedly interrupted while doing so and eventually prevented from proceeding further in this regard," Kumar added.
India explained that its deputy high commissioner J.P. Singh was “initially separated from family members who were taken to the meeting without informing him."
“The meeting was started without his presence and he could join only after pressing the matter with concerned officials. Even then, he was kept behind an additional partition that did not allow him access to the meeting as agreed," the spokesperson said.
Pakistan has denied 22 requests by India seeking consular access to Jadhav since March 2016. Pakistan’s foreign office spokesperson Mohammad Faisal said on Monday that “all decisions on consular access will be taken on basis of law and interests of Pakistan."