The wife (r) and mother of Kulbushan Sudhir Jadhav, an Indian national sentenced to death for spying in Pakistan, leave after meeting with Jadhav at the Foreign Ministry in Islamabad, Dec. 25. Pakistani authorities allowed an Indian national to see his family for the first time since his arrest, a rare and highly-anticipated meeting arranged amid tight security in Islamabad. (Farooq Naeem/AFP/Getty Images)
The recent “humanitarian gesture” extended by Pakistan to allow the wife and mother of its prisoner Kulbhushan Jadhav to meet him has exposed its farce and underpinned the toxicity of Indio-Pak relations existing since Independence, thereby escalating tensions between the two neighbors always at war with each other, writes Priyanka Bhardwaj.
As per the former German Ambassador to Pakistan, Gunter Mulack, based on reliable local information, Jadhav, an Indian businessman and an ex-navy officer, was abducted by the Taliban from near Chabahar port in Iran, sold to Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), smuggled into Pakistan and then falsely accused of entering Pakistan to carry out espionage and terrorist activities in its restive province of Balochistan, for which he was sentenced to death by the Pakistani military court in April last year.
Armed with Mulack’s statements and citing the lack of any evidence by Pakistan against Jadhav, New Delhi denied all such trumped up charges and immediately knocked on the doors of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in Vienna and obtained an interim relief that has stayed Jadhav’s execution pending the final verdict by it.
Then come December, Islamabad aimed to earn brownie pints by proclaiming to grant “consular access” to Jadhav on the 25th of the month, on the birthday of its founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
Post detailed discussions between the diplomats of the two countries on the modalities of this connection Jadhav’s mother, Avantika, and wife, Chetna, flew by Air India to UAE and then into Islamabad by an Emirates one.
The much-anticipated meeting that lasted 45 minutes at the Pakistani foreign office but only after the mother and wife were made to change from their traditional attire of sarees into salwar kameez and new shoes, their own were not returned even after the meeting citing security concerns.
Stripped of their mangalsutra, bindis and bangles, all markers of a wedded Hindu woman that prompted Jadhav to enquire the well-being of his “Baba” (father) in his first utterance, they faced Jadhav across a glass screen that prevented any physical touch, and conversation was allowed via an intercom and in English and not in their native Marathi.
Furthermore, the accompanying Indian consul was a witness to the meeting but from another room, sans any opportunity to engage with Jadhav.
The coercive atmosphere created to tightly control the meeting, however, could not daunt the mother’s courage and presence of mind, who admonished her son to stop lying and speak the truth that he was a businessman doing legitimate trade in Iran when out of context and as if drugged or under instruction Jadhav adhoc narrated the details of the chargesheet against him by Pakistan.
Now, perhaps the Pakistanis will need to use the cut and paste technique to design a video of “confession.”
The harassment of the Indian ladies did not end at the hands of officials.
Soon after they left the venue of meeting more humiliation and abuse was heaped on them by a bullying Pakistani media who taunted them by asking their reactions on meeting their “murderer son,” in complete contravention to the understanding between the two countries, and for which they were thanked by the Pakistani spokesperson.
The whole episode was followed by an outrage in India and External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj strongly condemned Islamabad’s misusing an emotional meeting as an “instrument of furthering its propaganda” and reeking of nothing but “an absurdity beyond all measures.”
Hawkish policymakers have also suggested that Swaraj stop issuing medical visas to Pakistanis, remove the concession of Most Favored Nation status it has given to Pakistan and go all out on war with Pakistan and split it into four parts.
The night following the meeting Indian forces hit out at Pakistan by crossing the Line of Control in the Poonch sector and killed three Pakistani soldiers in a “tactical retaliatory strike” to avenge the killing of four Indian Army personnel, including a Major, a few days earlier by Pakistan in an ambush in Kashmir’s Keri-Rajouri sector.
Despite the prevailing Indian mood of no normalization of relations it is being reported that National Security Advisors from both sides met in Bangkok wherein New Delhi offered a ‘humanitarian pact’ to Pakistan, which allows the elderly and minor children who inadvertently cross the border to be quickly returned to their home country and on Dec. 29, Pakistan released 149 Indian fishermen.
The meeting has not affected the customary exchange their lists of prisoners and nuclear installations on the New Year’s Day though Swaraj ruled out the prospects of a cricket series between India and Pakistan, even at a neutral venue, citing the high incidence of cross-border firing violations by Pakistan vitiating any conducive atmosphere for the sporting exchange.
The LoC has remained very active throughout 2017 with over 812 ceasefire violations and killing of 31 Indian soldiers even after the lull in violence in Jammu & Kashmir after the killing of Hizbul Commander, Burhan Wani in 2016.
Indian authorities also have reported 18 percent, since last year, surge in drug trafficking into India along the 553 kilometers long Indo-Pak border.
Of particular concern to India is Pakistan’s handling of 26/11 Mumbai attack mastermind, Hafiz Saeed, who has been freed from police custody and is attempting to join mainstream politics, and Lashkar-e-Taiba commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi who is also out on bail.
What has come to vindicate India’s stand on terrorism and Pakistan sponsoring and sheltering terrorists, is the U.S. President Donald Trump tweeting on social media that, “The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!”
Close on heels of Trump’s statements, Islamabad came down upon Saeed’s outfits by banning them from collection charities.
However, given that Islamabad’s deception is a state craft, honed since its days of origin it would be foolhardy to believe in its reform and its intelligence loosening its grip on government and thereby quashing its importance and existence.
As the Baloch leader Norrdin Mengal says, “Pakistan is not a country to be trusted because we Baloch have experienced and learnt from our grievances and atrocities carried out against us since March 28, 1948 when Balochistan was merged with Pakistan, even though Pakistan founder M.A. Jinnah had recognized Balochistan as a sovereign state.”