Sentencing Kulbhushan Jadhav to death by Pakistan is an act of extreme provocation

The 10 April decision by Pakistan to sentence Kulbhushan Jadhav to death is an act of extreme provocation, especially since the sentence has been given by a military court and not by the Government of Pakistan

Prakash Katoch April 11, 2017 08:59:21 IST
Sentencing Kulbhushan Jadhav to death by Pakistan is an act of extreme provocation

The 10 April decision by Pakistan to sentence Kulbhushan Jadhav to death is an act of extreme provocation, especially since the sentence has been given by a military court and not by the Government of Pakistan. The military courts of Pakistan have been acting notoriously in backdrop of the military-ISI-terrorist connections, giving rulings coloured with radical Islamic fundamentals, and these military courts being part of the genocide unleashed in Balochistan, North Waziristan and Gilgit-Baltistan to ruthlessly stamp out dissent.

The sentence also must be viewed in the backdrop of the utterances by Sartaj Aziz, Nawaz Sharif’s advisor on foreign affairs in December 2016, wherein he told a full Senate chamber that the dossier on alleged Indian spy Jadhav contained just statements, and that additional evidence had to be collected. Dawn had quoted Aziz as having said, "So far, we have just statements about the involvement of the Indian spy in terror activities in Pakistan”. Geo TV had then quoted Aziz saying,"What the dossier contained was not enough. Now it is up to the concerned authorities how long they take to give us more matter on the agent."

A press release of 10 April by Pakistan’s notorious ISPR said that Jadhav — arrested from Balochistan on 3 March, 2016 for his involvement in espionage and sabotage activities against Pakistan —was tried by FGCM under section 59 of Pakistan Army Act (PAA) and Section 3 of Official Secrets Act 1923, found guilty of all charges which he confessed, and awarded death sentence. The press release further said that the accused was provided with a defending officer, and that his death sentence has been confirmed by army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa.

Sentencing Kulbhushan Jadhav to death by Pakistan is an act of extreme provocation

File image of Kulbhushan Jadhav and his passport. PTI

That India has been consistently asking for consular access from the day Jadhav's arrest was announced is a well-known fact, and one that Pakistan has consistently denied. The Army Act in any country is applicable to personnel of that army, both uniformed and civilians, not anyone else. Not providing consular access to India and saying a defending officer was provided is a façade and the identity of the so-called defending officer is unknown.

In February 2016, a month before the arrest of Jadhav, Balochistan national media sources reported that the Pakistani forces’ ground attacks and air strikes against Baloch people continue across Balochistan. The Baloch Republican Party issued a statement saying, "Gunship helicopters and thousands of ground forces have attacked civilian populations in Pailawagh, Ledav Patti, Chubdar, Loup, Sohrabi, Peeshani, Seekhun and Doe Wadh regions. Dozens of houses have been destroyed in these attacks and it is feared that several people including women and children have been killed." Twenty-three persons (mostly farmers) had been abducted while the bodies of five previously abducted ones had been found.

On 15 February, the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) had issued a statement to media that Pakistani forces killed many unarmed civilians and abducted more than 60 others during their attacks in Jaladi, Sangaan, Yakho, Sanjawal, Babar Kach and other surrounding area of Harnai, Sibbi and Bolan regions of Baluchistan. It is in this backdrop that the Pakistan Army alleged they had caught a ‘serving’ Indian Navy officer in Balochistan working for RAW. According to Pakistani military intelligence, the arrested man identified himself as Kulbhushan Jadhav on deputation to Iran and was apprehended with a passport under the assumed name of ‘Hussein Mubarak Patel’ and a valid Iranian visa.

According to Pakistani officials, Jadhav had entered Pakistan illegally through the border with Iran and he was believed to be contracted privately with a construction project linked to the Chabahar Port in Iran. Significantly, the arrest was announced on the day Iranian president Hassan Rouhani landed in Pakistan for a bilateral visit, and just prior to the Pakistani joint intelligence team (JIT) heading to India for probing the Pathankot IAF base terror attack engineered by Pakistan on 2 January.

With the type of massive Pakistan Army-cum-ISI-linked terror groups' operations in Balochistan, why would Jadhav cross the border from Iran?
With Pakistani cross-border operations into Iran, was Jadhav lured into Balochistan by the ISI for using him to prove India’s involvement in the Baloch insurgency, all other efforts having failed?
Was this to score a point against the Iranian president, telling him Iranian territory was being used for anti-Pakistan activities?
Did the ISI arrange a passport for him with a fake name — something that would be no problem with ISI expertise?
Was Jadhav lured from Iran?
What would one man crossing into Balochistan achieve when the digitised world is already flat, and when Balochistan is crammed with the marauding Pakistan Army?

It is significant to note that while Jadhav was allegedly captured in Balochistan on 4 March, 2016, over 10 months later in December 2016,  Aziz had stated that Kulbhushan Jadhav’s dossier contained just statements, that were “not conclusive evidence”. When he added “Now it is up to the concerned authorities how long they take to give us more matter on the agent", was it a hint to the Pakistani military-ISI to ‘cook up’ evidence? Last year, Mehdi Honardoost, Iranian Ambassador to Pakistan dismissed Pakistan’s charge that Jadhav was a spy, saying that the claims were “one hundred percent false”. Had Pakistan believed RAW was operating out of Iran, it should have shared this information with Tehran.

But more significant was the exposé on this sordid affair by Gunter Mulack, former German Ambassador to Pakistan, who disclosed he had information that Jadhav had been kidnapped by the Taliban (on franchise by Pakistan) near Chaman, and sold to Pakistan’s ISI.

It is quite obvious that Pakistan consistently denying consular access to Jadhav implies that the actual story will never come out.

There could be several reasons for the timing of the sentence:

First, it could be an attempt to divert the attention of the Donald Trump administration from the genocide unleashed by the Pakistan Army in Balochistan. In August 2016, Naela Quadri Baloch, president of the World Baloch Women’s Forum accused Pakistan of using chemical weapons against Balochis in Makran and the Pakistan Army harvesting organs from abducted Balochis. Even the Sunday Guardian revealed in an article on 15 January, 2017, titled ‘Pak army using chemical weapons against Pashtuns’ reports that in addition to Balochis, Pakistan is also using chemical weapons indiscriminately against Pashtuns in Waziristan and certain areas of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KPK). This report also has photographs of victims of chemical attacks.

Second, gung-ho with the success of inciting the youths of the Kashmir Valley and immediately after the violence-marred Srinagar bypolls, Pakistan has decided to provoke India further.

Third, it could be a way to appease China or even at the insistence from China that is bristling from the visit of Dalai Lama to Tawang.

Fourth, while the return of Jadhav can be ruled out, Pakistan may be angling to extract something from India in exchange for commuting the death sentence from hanging Jadhav to perhaps life imprisonment. After all, Pakistan did wriggle out from resolving the Kashmir issue and not returning some 65 Indian PoWs languishing in Pakistani jails even as India had released 93,000 Pakistani PoWs, with Pakistan conveying to Indira Gandhi they would execute Sheikh Mujibur Rehman.

All said and done, sentencing Jadhav to death is an extreme provocation by Pakistan — a test for the Narendra Modi Government. It is reiterated for the umpteenth time that in this era of hybrid warfare, we need to look beyond conventional response and diplomacy.

The earlier the policymakers understand this, the better.

The author is a veteran lieutenant-general of the Indian Army

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