India turns down Pakistan offer, wants unimpeded access to Kulbhushan Jadhav
India has effectively turned down Pakistan’s offer for consular access to Kulbhushan Jadhav in its current form, with officials saying on Friday that New Delhi has asked Islamabad to provide “unimpeded” contact with the Indian national on death row.
In response to Islamabad’s conditional offer of consular access that was conveyed earlier this week, the Indian government asked the Pakistani side on Thursday to “provide unimpeded consular access” to Kulbhushan Jadhav “in an environment free from the fear of intimidation and reprisal”, said an official who didn’t want to be named.
The access should also be “in light of the orders of the International Court of Justice (ICJ)”, the official added. The ICJ ruled last month that Pakistan had violated Jadhav’s rights under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and sought a review of his death sentence.
The officials cited above said the ball was now in Pakistan’s court and its response was awaited. In its offer, Pakistan had said Indian officials could meet Jadhav at 3 pm on Friday.
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The two sides are engaged in sensitive negotiations on consular access in view of the complex diplomatic and legal issues involved. People familiar with developments said Pakistan had attached several conditions to its offer, including the presence of Pakistani officials during a meeting between Jadhav and Indian officials and the use of audio and video devices to record the conversation.
This was the reason why the Indian side had insisted on the meeting being held in an environment free from intimidation and reprisal, the people said. This will ensure Jadhav can speak to the Indian officials freely and not be afraid of any possible reprisals, they added.
Jadhav was arrested by Pakistani security agencies in Balochistan in March 2016 and charged with involvement in spying and subversive activities. In April 2017, Pakistan announced he had been given the death sentence by a military court.
India rejected the allegations against Jadhav and said he was kidnapped by Pakistani operatives from the Iranian port of Chabahar, where he was running a business. In May 2017, New Delhi petitioned the ICJ, which stayed Jadhav’s execution. In its ruling on July 17, the ICJ said its stay of the death sentence should continue.
There was no clarity as to when the two sides would be able to resolve their differences on the issue, though India is keen on speedy and full consular access to Jadhav.
Sanjay Hegde, a senior advocate of the Supreme Court, said the concept of consular access entailed officials of one country being able to meet a prisoner in a foreign country without being overheard.
“At the end of the day, the ICJ judgement is good as long as it is honoured. But the ICJ has no enforcement mechanism,” he said. “Ultimately, the issue of consular access will be the subject of some sort of agreement between the two sides.”