India Chides

The mother and wife of accused spy Kulbhushan Jadhav meet with him for the first time in 22 months in the Pakistan Foreign Office in Islamabad Dec. 25, 2017. India has slammed the meeting as a propaganda tool and said Jadhav’s wife and mother were mistreated and suffered violations of their human rights. Jadhav was arrested March 3, 2016, and sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court on charges of espionage and terrorism. (Twitter/@ForeignOfficePk photo)

NEW DELHI — India lashed out at Pakistan Dec. 28 for its treatment of the wife and mother of accused spy and death row prisoner Kulbhushan Jadhav during their first meeting since his arrest.

India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj accused Pakistan of disregarding the cultural and religious sensibilities of Kulbhushan Jadhav’s family under the pretext of security precautions, including the removal of bangles and other ornaments as well as a change in attire and shoes.

Swaraj said in a statement in India’s Parliament that the Dec. 25 meeting in the Pakistani capital could have proved to be a positive step in improving ties between the two countries. Pakistan’s military responded by saying India should have “appreciated” Islamabad’s gesture instead of launching a smear campaign with “baseless allegations.”

The criticism is expected to exacerbate tensions between the longtime rivals who have fought three wars since gaining independence from Britain in 1947 and regularly exchange fire along their disputed territory in Kashmir.

The meeting was the first between Jadhav and his family since he was arrested by Pakistan in March 2016 after allegedly entering the country from Iran. A Pakistani military tribunal found Jadhav guilty of espionage and sabotage and sentenced him to death, but India obtained an order from the International Court of Justice to halt the execution.

While India says that Jadhav is a retired Indian navy official, the Pakistan government has been describing him as a serving officer.

Swaraj accused the Pakistan government of using the meeting as a “propaganda tool” and violating mutual understandings on the meeting.

During the meeting, Jadhav was seen sitting behind a glass screen in the Pakistani Foreign Office while his mother and wife sat on the other side. They spoke through an intercom for nearly 40 minutes.

Pakistan army spokesman Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor rejected the Indian allegation that no respect was shown to Jadhav’s family.

Ghafoor said Pakistan had informed India before the arrival of Jadhav’s wife and mother that they would have to undergo security clearance before the meeting.

“Kulbhushan Jadhav is an established terrorist and his family was allowed to meet with him purely on humanitarian grounds,” he told reporters in the garrison city of Rawalpindi.

The Indian minister said the Pakistani press was allowed on multiple occasions to approach family members closely, harass and hector them and hurl accusations about Jadhav. She said this was despite a clear agreement between the two sides that the media would not be allowed close access.

Jadhav’s mother was prevented from talking to her son in their mother tongue, although this was clearly the natural medium of communication, Swaraj said.

Despite her repeated requests, the shoes of Jadhav’s wife were not returned to her after the meeting, she said.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry said Jadhav’s mother thanked authorities for allowing the meeting with her son and that Indian allegations were “baseless, counterproductive and regrettable.”

“The visitors changed into their own clothes after the meeting. All their belongings were returned to them before they left,” Mohammad Faisal told reporters in Islamabad. “The shoes of Commander Jadhav’s wife was retained as it did not clear the security check.”

In a statement, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif said the shoes were seized after a “metal chip” was found in one of her shoes, which was still being analyzed.

India’s opposition joined Swaraj in a rare moment of Parliamentary unity to strongly condemn Pakistan on the issue.

Leaders from the main opposition Congress party and other parties asked the government to lodge a protest with Pakistan and expedite efforts at the International Court of Justice to seek Jadhav’s acquittal in the case.

IANS adds that Swaraj accused Pakistan of committing serious and gross violation of human rights of Jadhav’s family and creating an intimidating atmosphere during their meeting with him, which was used as an instrument to further Islamabad's propaganda.

"The emotional moment between the mother and her son, and a wife and her husband after a period of 22 months, was misused by Pakistan as an instrument to further its propaganda," she said of  the meeting, which was arranged through diplomatic channels.

"There are not enough words to condemn the same," Swaraj said in both the Houses of Parliament, adding that "the truth is that both humanity and compassion were missing."

"I am fully confident that this entire House and through this House, the people of India, strongly condemn in one voice the obnoxious behavior of Pakistan and affirm their solidarity with the Jadhav family," the minister said in identical statements in the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha.

Taking the floor after the minister's statement, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, said the treatment meted out by the Pakistani authorities to the family was "an insult to 130 crore Indians."

"Regardless of political differences, when it comes to the country's dignity and another country misbehaves with our mothers and sisters, it will not be tolerated," said Azad. 

Trinamool Congress' Derek O'Brien said: "We are in complete agreement with every word of what the minister said. We stand by the statement and support the government on this."

Later Rajya Sabha Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu stated the entire House has asked the government to work for Jadhav's safe release.

As Swaraj read her statement in the Lok Sabha, members across party lines joined in condemning Pakistan, with some shouting "Pakistan murdabad" and "shame, shame." 

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Ahmed reported from Islamabad, Pakistan.

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