Tensions are again mounting between South Asia’s nuclear-armed rivals, Pakistan and India, after Pakistan last week sentenced Indian citizen Kalbhushan Jadhav to death, on charges of espionage and terrorism.
India strongly denies the allegations, and warns that going ahead with the execution would further deteriorate an already tense relationship.
Naeem Sahoutara has this report from Karachi, Pakistan.
In an incredible video statement, Indian naval officer Kulbhushan Jadhav is seen confessing to acting as an Indian spy in Pakistan.
Although there are doubts over it’s authenticity, the video has been used as evidence in a military trial that last week convicted Jadhav of espionage and sabotage activities, and sentenced him to death.
In it, Jadhav admits to supporting the insurgency of Baloch nationalists in the south west of Pakistan, and to involvement in terrorism at the commercial hub of Karachi. Activities he says, that were instigated by India’s spy agency, Research and Analysis Wing or RAW.
“My purpose was to hold meetings with Baloch insurgents and carry out activities with their collaboration,” Jadhav says in the video.
“These activities have been of a criminal nature, this have been of anti-national, terrorist, leading into the killing of or maiming of Pakistani citizen also.
Jadhav allegedly established a small shop in neighbouring Iran in 2003. From there he directed undercover operatives in Pakistan, who worked for the Indian spy agency, Research and Analysis Wing or RAW.
Pakistan has long accused India’s spy agency RAW of funding a violent insurgency in the mineral rich province of Balochistan.
Announcing Jadhav’s arrest last year, Lieutenant General Asim Bajwa, then spokesperson for Pakistan’s Armed Forces stated:
“This is nothing less than state-sponsored terrorism ... there are very few examples in the world where a senior serving officer is involved in such activities and is caught.”
Bajwa claimed that Jadhav was plotting to destablise a 46 billion US dollar Economic Corridor in Balochistan. It’s a project that would give Pakistan’s economy an edge over India.
“Their plan was to disrupt the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. They planned to target Gwadar port [in Balochistan], and infiltrate with 30 to 40 RAW agents, entering from the Pakistan coast near Gwadar,” Bajwa said.
“Their task was also to revive the nationalist insurgency, which has been dying down in Balochistan.
But India forcefully denies the allegations, claiming Jadhav was framed under false charges. They argue the video confession has been edited, and that its authenticity is doubtful.
Sushma Swaraj, Indian Minister for External Affairs, told Parliament that Pakistan agencies kidnapped Jadhav while he was doing business in Iran, and that he did not receive a fair trial.
“I rise to share my concern with the House regarding the report that an Indian citizen Kulbhushan Jadhav has been awarded a death sentence by a Pakistan military court martial on concocted charges. I repeat on concocted charges,” she argued.
The neighboring countries have long accused each other of spying.
In India 53 Pakistanis are currently under arrest for spying, while Islamabad has also arrested dozens of Indians for the same crime.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan says many suspected spies have been tortured to death in prisons on both sides.
But India has never executed a suspected spy, and Pakistan has only executed one, in 1999.
In New Delhi Swaraj warned of grave consequences if Pakistan goes ahead with the execution.
“Under these circumstances, we have no choice but to regard the sentence, if carried out, as an act of premeditated murder. Let me state very clearly that the government and people of India would view very seriously the possibility that an Indian citizen is facing death sentence in Pakistan without due process and in violation of the basic norms of law, justice and international relations,” Swaraj said.
“I would caution the Pakistan government to consider the consequences for our bilateral relationship, if they proceed on this matter,” she concluded.
Kulbhushan Jadhav’s conviction comes at a crucial moment, as India and Pakistan planned to resume long-awaited dialogue on key issues, including the dispute over Kashmir and controversial dam projects.
But for now, Jadhav’s death sentence has further stalled any prospect of the nuclear-armed rivals resolving their deep tensions.