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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 September 2018

India says Pakistan mistreated visiting wife and mother of convicted spy

Jadhav’s mother and wife travelled to Pakistan to meet him on Monday following many months of requesting access to him

JP Singh (L), the Indian Deputy high commissioner, stands with the mother, Avanti Jadhav (C), and wife Chetankul Jadhav of Kulbhushan Jadhav, an Indian naval officer imprisoned in Pakistan. T Mughal / EPA
JP Singh (L), the Indian Deputy high commissioner, stands with the mother, Avanti Jadhav (C), and wife Chetankul Jadhav of Kulbhushan Jadhav, an Indian naval officer imprisoned in Pakistan. T Mughal / EPA

India and Pakistan are engaged in diplomatic squabbling over the latter's alleged mistreatment of the family of Kulbhushan Jadhav, an Indian citizen imprisoned in Islamabad on espionage charges.

Jadhav’s mother and wife travelled to Pakistan to meet him on Monday following many months of requesting access to him. Jadhav, a former naval officer, was sentenced to death in April, but the International Court of Justice in May ordered the execution be suspended, pending its final decision in the case.

India has claimed that Jadhav was in Iran on personal business early last year and that he was abducted by Pakistani forces to face trumped-up charges of spying.

Pakistan has denied India consular access to Jadhav. But earlier this month, the Pakistani government said it would permit Avanti, Jadhav’s mother, and wife Chetankul, to visit him “on purely humanitarian grounds".

The visit on Monday — which marked the birthday of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Pakistan’s founder — lasted 40 minutes. Jadhav sat on one side of a glass partition, while his mother and wife sat on the other; they spoke through an intercom, as the authorities recorded the conversation with several video cameras.

The prison in which the meeting occurred was blanketed in heavy security, with antiterrorism squads roaming the grounds and snipers on the roof.

“We honour our commitments,” Mohammad Faisal, a spokesperson for Pakistan’s foreign office, said in a tweet on Monday.

But India has claimed that the two women's mistreatment made the visit “a farce".

In a lengthy statement issued on Tuesday, India’s foreign ministry said that Pakistan “violated the letter and spirit of our understandings".

Among India’s criticisms were that “under the pretext of security precautions, the cultural and religious sensibilities of family members were disregarded".

This included the enforced removal of bangles, the bindi from the women’s foreheads, and even the ritual chain worn by married Hindu women around their necks.

The women had to change clothes. They were also prohibited from speaking to Jadhav in their native language, Marathi, and were frequently interrupted by Pakistani officials who accompanied them, the statement said.

Jadhav responded to questions in a “tutored” manner, the statement added, and “his appearance also raises questions of his health and well-being".

After the meeting, “for some inexplicable reason”, Chetankul Jadhav’s shoes were not returned to her, said the statement.

As the women left the prison and waited for their car, Pakistani journalists were allowed to scream questions and accusations. Videos of this heckling emerged in media reports on Wednesday.

In one video, a man clearly shouts through a loudspeaker: “Your husband killed thousands of innocent Pakistanis. What do you have to say about that?”

“How do you feel after meeting your killer son?” another journalist yelled out.

In response, the women turn and go back inside the building, even as JP Singh, India’s deputy high commissioner in Islamabad, who is accompanying the Jadhavs, throws up his hands in frustration.

The harassment by journalists as well as the attitude of Pakistani officials constituted “intimidation”, India’s foreign ministry said in its statements.

Pakistan has rejected India’s complaints. “We do not wish to indulge in a meaningless battle of words. Our openness and transparency belies these allegations,” Pakistan’s foreign ministry said on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, the Pakistani newspaper Dawn quoted foreign ministry sources as saying that Ms Jadhav’s shoes had been retained because a “metallic substance” had been detected in them.

“There was something in the shoe,” Mr Faisal told Dawn. “It is being investigated. We gave her a pair of replacement shoes. All her jewellery etcetera were returned after the meeting.”

“The authorities are ascertaining whether the ‘metallic object’ in the shoes was a camera or a recording chip,” he said.

Subramanian Swamy, a parliamentarian from prime minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), advocated a “permanent solution” to deal with India’s decades-long rivalry with Pakistan.

“Now time has come when we should wage war against Pakistan to tear it apart into four pieces,” Mr Swamy told the Press Trust of India. “I don’t say that we should [declare war] immediately, but we should start doing serious homework for this right now.”

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