NEW DELHI: India yesterday warned Pakistan of serious consequences for their bilateral relationship if it executes a retired Indian naval officer convicted of espionage and sabotage. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj told agitated lawmakers in Parliament that India would take up the issue with Pakistan at the highest level to ensure that justice was done to Kulbhushan Jadhav. He was arrested by Pakistan last year and convicted by a Pakistani military tribunal this week. Pakistan alleges that Jadhav was an Indian intelligence official who aided and financed terrorist activities in the southwestern province of Baluchistan and the port city of Karachi.
Swaraj dismissed Jadhav’s trial as a farce and said Pakistan had ignored 13 separate requests in the past year to be permitted to offer him consular services. “The government and people of India would view very seriously the possibility that an innocent Indian citizen is facing death sentence in Pakistan without due process and in violation of basic norms, law, justice and international relations,” she said. Swaraj warned “the Pakistan government to consider the consequences for our bilateral relationship if they proceed on this matter.”
Lawmakers from opposition Congress and other parties asked the government to put international pressure on Pakistan to free Jadhav and return him to India. Pakistan’s army released a video shortly after Jadhav’s arrest last year in which he confessed to having spent years sowing unrest in Pakistan. It was not clear if he was speaking under duress. India’s External Affairs Ministry said Monday that Jadhav was kidnapped last year from Iran and his subsequent presence in Pakistan was never explained credibly. It concluded that his death sentence, if carried out, would be regarded by the Indian government as premediated murder.
Pakistan and India have tensed relations. High-level talks between the neighbors have been suspended since January last year, when India postponed scheduled meetings on Kashmir and other problems after an attack on an Indian air force base that killed seven soldiers. India says phone intercepts suggest the gunmen came from Pakistan, a charge Islamabad denies. India and Pakistan have fought three wars, two of them over Kashmir, the divided region both claim in its entirety, since they won independence from British colonialists in 1947.- AP