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Kulbhushan Jadhav meets family, Pakistan says more such meetings will take place

The wife and mother of Kulbhushan Jadhav, a former Indian naval officer facing the death penalty in Pakistan for espionage, arrived in Islamabad for a rare meeting with him.

india Updated: Dec 26, 2017 12:51 IST
Imtiaz Ahmad
Imtiaz Ahmad
Hindustan Times, Islamabad
Kulbhushan Jadhav,Kulbhushan Jadhav meets family,Indian spy
In this handout photo released by Pakistan foreign minister, the wife, right, and mother, centre, of imprisoned Indian naval officer Kulbhushan Jadhav, meet with Jadhav, left, at the foreign ministry in Islamabad.(AP)

From behind a glass barrier at the Pakistan foreign ministry in Islamabad, Indian death row prisoner Kulbhushan Jadhav on Monday met his wife and mother for the first time since his arrest in March 2016.

Pakistan said this would not be the last such meeting but described Jadhav as the “face of Indian terrorism”. Islamabad insisted that the presence of Indian diplomats at the former naval officer’s 40-minute-long meeting with his wife Chetankul and mother Avanti did not amount to consular access.

In what appeared to be choreographed moves, the Pakistani foreign office released photos of the meeting, a pre-recorded video of Jadhav, sentenced to death for alleged espionage, thanking the Pakistani government, and a medical report that claimed he was in good health.

Doubts were immediately raised in India that the video may have been shot under duress, and the credibility of the medical report issued by a doctor of the Saudi German Hospital, Dubai, was questioned.

The video showed Jadhav saying Pakistani authorities had treated him in a dignified, respectful and professional manner, for which he said he was thankful. In the pre-recorded video, Jadhav ‘confesses’ to the crimes he has been charged with in Pakistan.

Avanti and Chetankul Jadhav were accompanied to the ministry by Indian deputy high Commissioner JP Singh and three Indian foreign ministry officials. Only Jadhav’s family was allowed into the room where he was sitting, while Singh and Pakistani officials, including Fareha Bugti of the India desk of the foreign ministry, monitored the meeting from outside the room.

The wife, centre, and mother, left, of Jadhav gesture to the media. ( AP )

Jadhav’s family stopped over at the Indian high commission after arriving in Islamabad on an Emirates flight from Dubai on Monday morning. Avanti and Chetankul Jadhav left Pakistan for Muscat by an Oman airline flight at 19:44 hours (local time), said officials at the Benazir Bhutto International Airport.

An official statement from India’s foreign ministry was awaited. Earlier, Indian high commissioner Ajay Bisaria said he hoped the meeting would take place in a cordial atmosphere.

India requested that the family not have any interaction with the media, Pakistani foreign office spokesman Muhammad Faisal said.

Faisal reiterated that the meeting did not mean any change in Pakistan’s stance regarding Jadhav, who he termed “a spy and terrorist who has been sentenced to death”.

The foreign office spokesman said Pakistan permitted Jadhav to meet his kin on humanitarian grounds on the birthday of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founding father of Pakistan.

Former Indian navy officer Kulbhushan Jadhav is seen on a screen during a news conference at the ministry of foreign affairs in Islamabad. ( REUTERS )

The move should not be seen as according consular access to Jadhav, he said, adding that Pakistan had consistently denied consular access to him as the Vienna Convention does not apply to those involved in espionage. “The presence of JP Singh at today’s meeting should not be considered as consular access,” Faisal said.

Faisal’s comments came hours after his boss, Pakistan foreign minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif appeared to contradict him on TV. Asked by Geo TV specifically if the presence of an Indian official at the meeting would constitute consular access, Asif said “Yes”.

Rare as it was, Pakistani officials said this meeting would not be the last between Jadhav and his family.

In preparation for the meeting, Pakistan had deployed security personnel, including sharpshooters, and traffic police within and outside the foreign office building, located near the country’s parliament . TV footage showed a convoy of around seven vehicles escorting Jadhav’s family in the capital Islamabad.

The Pakistani high commission in New Delhi had issued a visa to Jadhav’s wife earlier in the month. India made the acceptance of the offer conditional to permission for his mother and an Indian diplomat to accompany her. After extensive deliberations, the Indian request was allowed and December 25 was proposed as the meeting date.

Minutes before the meeting, Faisal tweeted a picture of Jadhav’s wife and mother, adding they were “sitting comfortably in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Pakistan. We honour our commitments”.

Jadhav was at the ministry before his family arrived. It was not known where he had been kept before being transported to the ministry.

Jadhav was sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court on charges of espionage and terrorism in April, following which India moved the International Court of Justice in May. The ICJ halted his execution on India’s appeal pending the final verdict by it.

Pakistan claims its security forces arrested Jadhav alias Hussein Mubarak Patel from its restive Balochistan province on March 3 last year after he reportedly entered from Iran.

India, however, maintains that Jadhav was kidnapped from Iran where he had business interests after retiring from the Indian Navy.

(With inputs from agencies)

First Published: Dec 25, 2017 13:37 IST