PAKISTAN’S move to hand down the death sentence to former Indian Navy officer Kulbhushan Jadhav on charges of terrorism and espionage has raised some serious concerns both in the Indian Parliament and amongst the international community who fear the punishment is politically motivated.
According to The Times of India, top US experts have questioned Pakistan’s decision, calling it a “flimsy” and “politically motivated” move and accusing it of using Kulbhushan’s case to send a clear message to India not to isolate it on the world stage.
Indian citizen Kulbhushan was sentenced to death by the Pakistan army on charges of espionage. According to the Indian government, he was abducted from Iran, but Pakistan claims he was arrested through a Counter Intelligence Operation from Mashkel, Balochistan, last March.
Certain aspects around the high-profile case have been ringing alarm bells for those with experience in international diplomacy.
“Apart from the gross irregularities… such as the lack of counsellor access and the secrecy surrounding the surprise court-martial, what struck me the most is the contrast between the speed of Mr (Kulbhushan) Jadhav’s trial set against the endless postponements for that of the Mumbai attackers,” Alyssa Ayres, a former senior US state department official in its South and Central Asia Bureau, said.
“The latter case, by contrast, has been in a continual state of prolongation for nearly nine years.” – Ayres
Indian Parliament has spoken out strongly against the sentence, questioning the case’s merit, and warning Pakistan of the adverse impact if it carries out the punishment.
Speaking in Parliament on Tuesday, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said, “Our position is very clear, there is no evidence of wrongdoing by Kulbhushan Jadhav.” She also hinted towards raising the issue at the United Nations.
MPs from different parties joined in unison to voice their condemnation of the act by Pakistani authorities. Congress demanded the intervention of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi to secure Kulbhushan’s release.
“Death sentence is a deliberate provocation to India. BJP govt needs to travel beyond advisories. PM must intervene to secure his release,” said Randeep S. Surjewala, senior party leader and Congress spokesman.
A date of execution is yet to be set, but Pakistan’s Defence Minister Khawaja Mohammad Asif has ruled out an immediate execution, saying he has the right to move the army’s court of appeal against Kulbhushan’s conviction within 60 days.
It is clear India does not want Pakistan to follow through with their threat of capital punishment, experts noted. The circumstances of Kulbhushan’s case could grant Pakistan a valuable bargaining chip against their neighbour.
“Given how much India will want to ensure Yadav (Kulbhushan) isn’t executed, Pakistan now has a very large bargaining chip at its disposal. Pakistan may want to use him as a trump card to get some type of major concession from India,” Michael Kugelman, deputy director for South Asia at the independent research institution Woodrow Wilson Center, said.
“The bottom line is that India-Pakistan relations are on life support,” he said. “We can kiss goodbye to any immediate prospects for resuming dialogue … Ultimately, India and Pakistan face some very dark and dangerous days ahead.”