NEW DELHI: Pakistan’s second consular access for India to Kulbhushan Jadhav ended on a disastrous note Thursday with Indian consular officers, as the government said in a statement, registering a protest and walking out after they were prevented from engaging Jadhav on his legal rights.
As TOI had first reported on Thursday, India had asked Pakistan, on July 13 as the government confirmed, for unimpeded and unconditional access in the absence of any Pakistani official and without any recording device in the room. India also wanted 2 Indian officials to be present and no restriction on language used to communicate with Jadhav.
However, the MEA said, Indian consular officers were not given the access India was looking for despite assurances from Pakistan. On the contrary, spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said Pakistani officials with an “intimidating demeanour” were present in close proximity of Jadhav and Indian officers despite protests by the Indian side.
It was also evident from a camera that was visible that the conversation with Jadhav was being recorded, said the official. Foreign minister S Jaishankar informed Jadhav’s family about the developments Thursday.
“Jadhav himself was visibly under stress and indicated that clearly to the consular officers. The arrangements did not permit a free conversation between them,” said Srivastava, adding that Indian officials couldn’t discuss Jadhav’s legal rights with him and were prevented from obtaining his written consent for arranging his legal representation. India wanted a lawyer from outside Pakistan for Jadhav but that has been denied by Islamabad.
It was also evident, the government said, that Jadhav had been intimidated repeatedly in the past, including in being coerced into not seeking a review of his sentence.
“In the light of these circumstances, the Indian Consular Officers came to the conclusion that the consular access being offered by Pakistan was neither meaningful nor credible. After lodging a protest, they left the venue, (foreign office)” said the official, while reiterating India’s commitment to ensure Jadhav’s return.
The government said it will decide on a future course of action in the light of the events Thursday. Sources said the government may consider the option of going back to ICJ in the near future.
The government said that Pakistan’s approach to the Jadhav issue continued to be obstructive and insincere as it had not only violated its assurance to the ICJ to fully implement the 2019 judgement, but also failed to act in accordance with its own May 20 ordinance which apparently is meant to allow a review of Jadhav’s sentence.
India said that since the ordinance allowed an Indian consular officer to file a review petition in the high Court, the conversation between the officer and Jadhav was going to be important and had to take place in private with no Pakistan official around.
It is only then that Jadhav, as India told Pakistan, can speak freely without any concerns of reprisal as he would remain in Pakistani custody after the meeting.
For India, consular access is of utmost importance, as it is the basis for a process of effective review and reconsideration ordered by the ICJ in July 2019 of the conviction and sentence of Jadhav by a military court.
According to the government, over the past year, India has requested Pakistan more than twelve times to provide unimpeded, unhindered and unconditional consular access.
Just ahead of the July 20 deadline for a review, as per the ordinance, India had asked Pakistan to ensure that the meeting was held in an atmosphere free from fear of retribution and without the presence of any Pakistani official in the vicinity of Jadhav and the Indian consular officers. Pakistan was also requested to not record the meeting.
After extensive discussions, the Pakistan side conveyed that they were ready to organize consular access on July 16. “We were assured that this consular access would be unimpeded, unhindered and unconditional. On the basis of this assurance by Pakistan, two consular officers of the high commission proceeded to the meeting with Jadhav.
“Regrettably however, neither the environment nor the arrangements of the meeting were in accordance with the assurances of Pakistan,” said the spokesperson.
In Islamabad, Pakistan claimed that “unimpeded and uninterrupted” consular access to Jadhav had been provided around 3 pm.
Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi claimed though that all Indian conditions had been fulfilled. “They had also objected to audio and video recordings so that was also not done. We fulfilled all their requests, but still they left,” said Qureshi.
Addressing a press briefing in the morning in Islamabad, the foreign ministry spokesperson reiterated Islamabad’s offer to file an appeal in the Islamabad High Court against Jadhav’s sentence. “The time limit for filing a review petition is 60 days. We hope that India will cooperate in this regard,” she said.
Qureshi earlier also claimed that Jadhav had “confessed to involvement in terrorist activities in Pakistan”.
“We accepted the decision of the ICJ, but India’s attitude has always been negative in this regard and they have not shown cooperation,” Qureshi said. “However, our thinking is positive and we have presented all the facts to the world. We are proceeding forward within the parameters of the law,” he said.