Delhi yet to take a call; it’s not clear if Pakistan has dropped its ‘conditions’.
New Delhi/Islamabad: After a month’s gap, Pakistan on Sunday for the second time offered India consular access to imprisoned former Indian naval officer Kulbhushan Jadhav on Monday, but sources in New Delhi said India was still “evaluating” the offer. India didn’t react officially to Pakistan’s offer made Sunday evening. It may be recalled that about a month back, Pakistan had similarly offered India access but New Delhi had rejected that offer due to certain conditions imposed by Pakistan, that included the presence of a Pakistani official at the meeting and the presence of CCTV cameras and recorders in the room where the meeting would take place. New Delhi had instead told Islamabad through diplomatic channels “to provide unimpeded consular access”. But there are indications that the two countries may continue to be in a standoff on the matter. There are also no indications that Islamabad has dropped its insistence on two conditions, which may therefore put India in a “take it or leave it” situation. So the second Pakistani offer may also meet the fate of the first one, though New Delhi is expected to officially spell out its decision on Monday.
India wants Pakistan to provide consular access to Mr Jadhav in an environment free from the fear of intimidation and reprisal, in the light of the orders of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in July. New Delhi had taken the view that the Pakistani terms and conditions imposed were an “impediment” that was not in line with the ICJ verdict and the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations as these conditions would result in the intimidation of Mr Jadhav at the meeting and leave him vulnerable to reprisals in Pakistani custody.
In a tweet on Sunday evening, Pakistan foreign ministry spokesperson Mohammad Faisal said: “Consular access for ... Kulbhushan Jadhav ... is being provided on Monday 2 September 2019, in line with Vienna Convention on Consular relations, International Court of Justice ICJ judgment and the laws of Pakistan.” The provocative tweet also referred to Mr Jadhav as an “Indian spy” and “RAW operative”, allegations that have been consistently dismissed by India as false and baseless. The Pakistan foreign ministry official also said that Mr Jadhav remains in “Pakistan’s custody, for espionage, terrorism and sabotage”, allegations that have been dismissed by India.
Mr Jadhav had been handed the death penalty in Pakistan in April 2017 by a military court on charges of espionage and sabotage. New Delhi dismissed the Pakistani charges that Mr Jadhav was a spy and saboteur. India had then petitioned the ICJ which in its verdict on July 17 this year had severely pulled up Pakistan for not granting India consular access to Mr Jadhav in violation of the Vienna Convention.
Islamabad had claimed Mr Jadhav was “apprehended by Pakistan law enforcement agencies on March 3, 2016 after he illegally crossed over into Pakistan”, and that he had been engaging in “espionage, terrorist and sabotage activities aimed at destabilising and waging war against Pakistan”. But New Delhi consistently rubbished these claims as false and baseless. India had argued Mr Jadhav was “kidnapped from Iran, where he was carrying on business after retiring from the Indian Navy, and was then shown to have been arrested in Balochistan” on March 3, 2016”.
The external affairs ministry had been maintaining the two countries were “in touch through diplomatic channels” on India gaining consular access to Mr Jadhav. Indian government sources in New Delhi had said there had been a lot of “back and forth” in the past few days bon the issue of consular access. “The Pakistanis have sent us a couple of communications on this and we have sent our replies,” the sources had said recently, without divulging details of the contents.
It may also be recalled that after being pulled up by the ICJ, a chastened Pakistan had soon after announced its decision in the beginning of August to grant consular access to Mr Jadhav, adding that the imprisoned former Indian naval officer has “been informed of his rights under Article 36, Paragraph 1(b) of the Vienna Convention”.