India's deputy envoy in Pakistan meets Kulbhushan

Kulbhushan Jadhav

India's deputy envoy to Pakistan, Gaurav Ahluwalia, on Monday met former Indian Navy officer Kulbhushan Jadhav, who has been on a death row in the neighbouring country since April 2017.

Ahluwalia met Jadhav for about two hours after Pakistan finally agreed to implement the judgement of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and grant India consular access to Jadhav, who was accused and convicted espionage and subversive activities by a military court of the neighbouring country.

A government source in New Delhi earlier on Monday stated that India hoped that Pakistan would ensure “right atmosphere” so that the meeting between Ahluwalia and Jadhav was “free, fair, meaningful and effective in keeping with the letter and spirit of the ICJ orders”.

Sources said that Ahluwalia had met Jadhav at around 11:30 a.m. (Indian Standard Time) at a “sub-jail”  in Islamabad and the meeting continued for about two hours.  

Ahluwalia is the Deputy High Commissioner of India to Pakistan. He is now acting as Chargé d'Affaires of the High Commission of India in Pakistan after Ajay Bisaria, New Delhi’s envoy to Islamabad, returned home earlier this month. Islamabad had asked New Delhi to withdraw its High Commissioner as it decided to downgrade its diplomatic ties with its eastern neighbour in the wake of the decision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Government to strip Jammu and Kashmir off its special status and reorganise the state into two Union Territories. Pakistan also decided not to send its newly-appointed High Commissioner to India, Moin ul Haque, to New Delhi.

New Delhi had on August 2 rejected the riders Islamabad attached it its offer of granting consular access to Jadhav. Pakistan had then insisted that its officials would be present when the incarcerated Indian Navy officer would interact with representatives of High Commission of India in Islamabad. Pakistan had also conveyed to India that the meeting would happen under CCTV surveillance and would be recorded.

New Delhi had rejected the riders and asked Islamabad to provide “unimpeded” and “unrestricted” access to Jadhav and to make it sure that he could interact with the consular officials of High Commission of India in Pakistan without any intimidation or fear of reprisal.

Though tension between New Delhi and Islamabad escalated in the wake of New Delhi’s moves on J&K, the diplomats of the two countries were in touch on arranging the meeting Jadhav and the representatives of the Government of India in Pakistan.

Mohammad Faisal, spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan Government, went on Twitter on Sunday to announce that Islamabad would provide New Delhi consular access to Jadhav on Monday “in line with Vienna Convention on Consular relations, ICJ judgment and the laws of Pakistan”. “Commander Jadhav remains in Pakistan’s custody, for espionage, terrorism and sabotage,” he underlined in a post on Twitter.

Faisal, who is also Director General (South Asia) in the MoFA of the Pakistan Government, and Ahluwalia had a meeting early on Monday.  

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) on July 17 had asked Pakistan to allow consular officials of High Commission of India in Islamabad to meet Jadhav. It had also asked Pakistan Government to inform the former Indian Navy officer about his rights under Vienna Convention.

Jadhav had been in the custody of Pakistan Army since at least March 3, 2016. A military court had convicted him of working for India's external spy agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and of fomenting militancy in Baluchistan province of Pakistan. The military court had also awarded death sentence to him on April 10, 2017.

India had moved the ICJ against Pakistan on May 10, 2017. The court had on May 18, 2017 stayed his execution pending its final judgement in the case.

The ICJ had on July 17 delivered its judgement, concluding that Pakistan had violated Article 36 of the Vienna Convention by not informing India about his arrest immediately after taking him into custody. It had also held that Pakistan had violated the Vienna Convention by declining India's request for consular access to incarcerated Jadhav. It had asked Pakistan to review the conviction of Jadhav, but rejected India's plea for his acquittal, release and repatriation from the neighbouring country.

New Delhi has been making it clear to Islamabad that Pakistan must grant India consular access to Jadhav, “in full compliance with the judgement of the ICJ and in full conformity with Vienna Convention on Consular Relations 1963.”

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