India’s Deputy High Commissioner in Islamabad, Gaurav Ahluwalia, on September 2, Monday met Indian death-row convict Kulbhushan Jadhav after Pakistan granted consular access to him “in line with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) judgement” delivered in July 2019. This was the first time that India got access to Kulbhushan Jadhav since his arrest by Pakistani security forces in March 2016.
Ahluwalia met the retired Indian Navy officer at a sub-jail after Pakistan formally granted consular access to him, the Dawn News paper said in a report. The meeting, reportedly, went on for about 2 hours and 25 mins. Before meeting Jadhav, Ahluwalia met Pakistan Foreign Office spokesperson Mohammad Faisal at the foreign ministry.
After an earlier failed attempt, India finally accepted the offer of consular access after Pakistan agreed to abide by the Vienna Convention norms set. Pakistan foreign minister Mohammad Faisal had said on Sunday that the consular access will be “in line with the ICJ judgement”.
The meeting between the senior diplomat and the former Naval Officer Jadhav came a month after a similar interaction between Indian officials and the Indian prisoner failed to materialise amid differences between New Delhi and Islamabad on the terms of the consular access.
49-year old Jadhav was sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court on charges of “espionage and terrorism” in April 2017. India then moved to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, seeking a stay on his death sentence and further remedies.
On July 17, the ICJ directed Pakistan to stay Jadhav’s execution and allow him consular access. ICJ president judge Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf also directed Pakistan to review and reconsider the death sentence awarded to Jadhav under the provisions of the 1963 Vienna Convention that defines a framework for consular relations between countries. On August 1, Pakistan Foreign Office said that Kulbhushan Jadhav will be granted consular access the next day. However, India did not accept the offer due to certain unacceptable conditions put forward by Pakistan for the meeting.
One of the conditions put by Pakistan was the presence of a Pakistani official when Jadhav is allowed to meet Indian officials as part of the consular access. However, India did not agree to the condition, saying the access must be “unimpeded” and in the spirit of the ICJ judgement.
Nevertheless, the fresh offer for consular access to Jadhav came amidst spiked tensions between the two countries after India abrogated Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and bifurcated it into two union territories. On September 1, Sunday, Foreign Office Spokesman Mohammad Faisal tweeted that consular access for Jadhav will be provided on September 2 “in line with Vienna Convention on Consular relations, ICJ judgement & the laws of Pakistan”.
India had demanded “immediate, effective and unhindered” consular access to Jadhav from Pakistan and was in touch with Islamabad through diplomatic channels. However, it is not yet clear if the consular access provided on Monday was unhindered as demanded by India.
Hours after the Indian Diplomat Gaurav Ahluwalia met Jadhav, the External Affairs Ministry claimed that Jadhav appeared to be under “extreme pressure” to parrot a false narrative to bolster Pakistan’s untenable claims in his case. “While we await a comprehensive report, it was clear that Jadhav appeared to be under extreme pressure to parrot a false narrative to bolster Pakistan’s untenable claims,” External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said.
“We will decide a further course of action after receiving a detailed report from our Charge d’ Affaires and determining the extent of conformity to the ICJ directives,” he added.
Pakistan claimed Jadhav was arrested from the restive Balochistan province on March 3, 2016 after he reportedly entered the region from Iran to foment unrest there. While, India has acknowledged that he is a former Indian naval officer but denies that he is a spy for the Indian government. India said that Jadhav was kidnapped from Iran where he had business interests after retiring from the Navy.