India asks Pak to release, repatriate Kulbhushan Jadhav

India asks Pak to release, repatriate Kulbhushan Jadhav

But Imran Khan reiterates former Indian Navy officer committed crimes against people of Pakistan.

People wait before the issue of a verdict in the case of Indian national Kulbhushan Jadhav by International Court of Justice, in Mumbai (Reuters Photo)

India on Thursday called upon Pakistan to release and repatriate Kulbhushan Jadhav, asserting that the so-called “confession” he was forced to make could not change the fact that he was “innocent”.

Islamabad, however, remained unmoved and reiterated that Jadhav was “guilty of crimes against the people of Pakistan”. 

A day after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) asked Pakistan to review and reconsider the conviction of Jadhav and the death sentence awarded to him by its military court, New Delhi asserted that the landmark judgement was a vindication not only for India, but also “for all those who believe in the rule of law and the sanctity of the international conventions”. 

Imran Khan, Prime Minister of Pakistan, however, lauded the ICJ's decision to reject India's plea for annulment of the conviction of the former Indian Navy officer and the death sentence awarded to him by a military court on April 10, 2017. “Appreciate ICJ’s decision not to acquit, release & return Commander Kulbhushan Jadhav to India. He is guilty of crimes against the people of Pakistan. Pakistan shall proceed further as per law,” Khan posted on Twitter on Thursday.  

In New Delhi, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Thursday assured both Houses of Parliament that India would “vigorously” continue its efforts to ensure “safety and well-being” of the former Indian Navy officer in the custody of Pakistan Army as well as for his “early return” to home. 

“Jadhav is innocent of the charges levelled against him. No forced confession that too without legal representation and due process will change this fact. We, once again, call upon Pakistan to release and repatriate him forthwith,” Jaishankar told the Rajya Sabha. The MPs cut across the party lines thumped on the desks to join External Affairs Minister in welcoming the “landmark judgement” of the ICJ.  Rajya Sabha chairman M Venkaiah Naidu noted that the entire House was together in welcoming the ICJ judgement. 

Jaishankar later made a similar statement in the Lok Sabha too.

The ICJ – the principal judicial organ of the United Nations – on Wednesday asked Pakistan to review the April 2017 conviction of Jadhav, but rejected India's plea for his release and repatriation from the neighbouring country.

Jaishankar recalled that Government of India had in 2017 made a commitment on the floor of the House “to undertake all steps necessary to protect the interest and welfare” of Jadhav. (The) government had (since) made “untiring efforts” in seeking his release including through legal means in the ICJ,” External Affairs Minister said. 

A 16-judge-bench of the ICJ concluded that Islamabad had violated the Article 36 of the Vienna Convention of Consular Relations 1963, as it had not informed New Delhi about the arrest of Jadhav immediately after Pakistan Army had taken him into custody. The court found that Pakistan had also flouted the Vienna Convention by declining India's repeated request for allowing officials of its High Commission in Islamabad to meet him and arrange lawyers to defend him.

Jadhav had been in the custody of Pakistan Army at least since March 3, 2016. He had been accused of working for India's external spy agency Research and Analytical Wing (RAW). A military court in had on April 10, 2017 awarded him death sentence after convicting him of being involved with espionage and of fomenting militancy at Baluchistan province of Pakistan. India 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. 

“I am confident that the House will join me in expressing its strongest solidarity with Jadhav’s family. They (the members of his family) have shown exemplary courage in difficult circumstances,” Jaishankar said in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday.