Pakistan’s Monday announcement of death sentence to former Indian Navy officer Kulbhushan Jadhav for alleged spying and stoking trouble in Balochistan took India by surprise which warned if the verdict were to be implemented it would be “premeditated murder”.
Sentencing of Jadhav is the latest blow to already strained ties between two neighbours. Rhetoric will only get shriller in the days to come, here is what has been said so far:
Shortly after Pakistani army announced the death sentence, Indian foreign secretary S Jaishankar on Monday summoned Pakistan high commissioner to India Abdul Basit and gave a demarche, which said the proceedings against Jadhav were “farcical in the absence of any credible evidence” against him.
“If this sentence (is) against an Indian citizen, awarded without observing basic norms of law and justice, is carried out, the government and people of India will regard it as a case of premeditated murder,” the demarche said. India also put on hold the release of several Pakistani prisoners schedule for Wednesday.
‘It is a warning’
Defending the move, Pakistan defence minister Khawaja Asif said Jadhav’s sentence should serve as a warning to those “plotting” against his country, as he accused India of “committing premeditated murder of the innocent people of Kashmir”.
“Those plotting against Pakistan will not be spared,” Asif said. “Soldiers and civilians of Pakistan have given sacrifices for this country and their sacrifices demand us to give a befitting reply to terrorists and those who aid and facilitate them.”
‘Good in law’
Pakistan prime minister’s adviser on foreign affairs Sartaj Aziz said the sentence was done according to the law but added it was too early to say when the sentence would be implemented.
Pakistan hanged an Indian, Sheikh Shamim, on charges of spying in 1999 and had sentenced others to death over the same charge. Though several suspected Pakistani spies have been held in India over the years, none were sentenced to death.
Islamabad had put its credibility at stake globally with its Kangaroo court approach, the BJP said.
“We need to bear in mind that no consular access was provided. He was travelling with his passport. The way the trial has been done also, statements are there from Pakistan and senior officials there who said there were only statements there, no supporting evidence,” party leader Nalin Kohli said.
Former union minister and Congress leader Shashi Tharoor described the sentence as unacceptable and suggested that both India and Pakistan resolve the issue amicably.
“Certainly, I am hoping it is mainly sign of pressure that they want to put. Eventually, the two governments should talk and come to an amicable conclusion,” Tharoor said on Monday.
“An honest truth is that as far as India is concerned if the Pakistanis carry through such an action, then absolutely it is a very grave matter that should go for the highest escalation on our part.”
The Shiv Sena sought the United Nations’ intervention to secure the release of Jadhav. The Sena, which has been acting more like a foe than an alliance partner, slammed the Modi government for failing to get the former naval officer freed. “The decision of Pakistani military court is sad, painful and agonising. The saddest part is that the Indian government could not secure Jadhav’s release,” Sena spokesperson Manisha Kayande said.
“...If India has such Pakistani prisoners, it can think about awarding a similar sentence to them as a befitting reply to the neighbouring nation.”
“The proceedings that have led to the sentence against Jadhav are farcical in the absence of any credible evidence against him. It is significant that our high commission was not even informed that Jadhav was being brought to trial.” human rights watchdog Amnesty International said. “Under Pakistan’s military courts, no information about charges or evidence against suspects is made public,” a statement said.
‘A diversionary tactic’
Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said the move was aimed at diverting the Pakistani people’s attention from failures of their government.
“We strongly condemn the act of Pakistan military. It’s an effort to divert the attention of Pakistani people from the domestic failures and artificially counter the established fact that the neighbouring country sponsors terror activities in India,” Fadnavis said.
Former Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) chief AS said the sentence amounted to blackmail and anything could happen in Pakistan.
“This issue amounts to blackmail. Anything is possible in Pakistan and having said that I’m sure sanity will prevail. There are many of these kinds of cases all over the country. It is not something unique,” Dulat said.
Indian diplomats would have to work and resolve the issue at the earliest, said the former spy chief.
‘Not another Sarabjit’
Dalbir Kaur, the sister of Sarabjit Singh who died in a Pakistan jail in 2013, said India should approach the International Court of Justice and ensure that the death sentence was not carried out.
“Our government should take appropriate steps. They should appeal in the International Court of Justice and seek a stay,” Kaur said.
(With agency inputs)