Pakistan Sentences Indian Naval Officer to Death for Espionage

Indian citizen Kulbhushan Jadhav has been sentenced to death by Pakistan as a spy in a trial which India calls "farcical". Photo: Video grab from YouTube/Al Jazeera

  • Pakistan has sentenced an Indian man for espionage and stirring unrest in its western province Balochistan and in the city of Karachi.
  • Pakistan says the man is on active duty in the Indian Navy, and an agent of India’s foreign intelligence RAW, India says he last served in its Navy in 2002.
  • India has called the trial farcical and the potential execution of the death sentence a “premeditated murder”.
  • Pakistan and India have been tangled in a long-standing conflict over the northern region of Kashmir, among other bilateral issues.

Pakistan’s military has sentenced to death a man who may or may not be an Indian naval officer on active duty on charges of espionage and sabotage.

46-year-old Indian citizen Kulbhushan Jadhav was arrested by Pakistani police in the province of Balochistan in March 2016.

He was accused by Pakistan of causing unrest in Balochistan and Karachi. Throughout his detention so far, Pakistan denied the Indian Embassy staff access to Jadhav.

Since March 2016, India has issued at least six diplomatic notes to Pakistan to get consular access to Jadhav, but it has been denied it.

Pakistan has claimed Jadhav is a commander-rank officer with the Indian Navy. India has maintained that he retired from its Navy in 2002 and was now a businessman. India has also claimed that Jadhav had been arrested in Iran, not Pakistan.

‘Waging War against Pakistan’

Kulbhushan Jadhav’s death sentence was first announced on Monday by Pakistani military spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor.

“Indian RAW Agent Kalbhushan awarded death sentence through Court Marshal by Pakistan Army for espionage and sabotage activities against Pakistan,” he said in a tweet, referring to the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), India’s main foreign intelligence agency.

Shortly thereafter, Pakistan’s military issued a release informing that “Indian RAW Agent 1 Naval officer 415582 Commander Kulbushan Sudhir Jadhav alias Hussein Mubarak Patel was arrested on March 3, 2016 through a Counter Intelligence Operation from Mashkel, Balochistan|.

“[…] for his involvement in espionage and sabotage activities against Pakistan. The spy has been tried through Field General Court Martial (FGCM) under Pakistan Army Act (PAA) and awarded death sentence. Today COAS, Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa has confirmed his death sentence awarded by FGCM,” the Pakistani military said.

The Pakistani Court Martial found Kulbushan Jadhav “guilty of all charges”. The defendant is also said to have confessed that he had been tasked by India’s intelligence RAW with planning, coordinating, and organizing “espionage / sabotage activities aiming to destabilize and wage war against Pakistan by impeding the efforts of Law Enforcement Agencies for restoring peace in Balochistan and Karachi”.

The Pakistani military also released a video of Jadhav’s confession even though it was unclear if he was speaking under duress.

It said the defendant had been provided with a defending officer as per legal provisions.

‘Premediated Murder’

India’s government reacted to the news about Jadhav’s death sentence described the court proceedings in his trial in Pakistan as “farcical”.

It said that if the death sentence of “former” Indian naval official Kulbhushan Jadhav was executed, it would be considered “premeditated murder”.

“If this sentence (is) against an Indian citizen, awarded without observing basic norms of law and justice, is carried out, the government and people of India will regard it as a case of premeditated murder,” India’s Foreign Ministry said in a demarche to Pakistan.

The demarche was handed over to Pakistan’s high commissioner Abdul Basit by the Indian Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar.

“The proceedings that have led to the sentence against Jadhav are farcical in the absence of any credible evidence against him. It is significant that our high commission was not even informed that Jadhav was being brought to trial,” it said, adding that “senior Pakistani figures have themselves cast doubt about the adequacy of evidence.”

“The claim… that Jadhav was provided with a defending officer during the so-called trial is clearly absurd in the circumstances,” India’s Foreign Ministry argued.

Pakistan accuses India of supporting a separatist movement in its western province Balochistan, while India says Pakistan helps separatists in the northern region of Kashmir, which has been divided between the two countries since the end of British colonial rule over then back in 1947.

Both India and Pakistan claim all of Kashmir, and have fought three wars over it.

In September 2016, separatist militants killed 19 Indian soldiers in an army camp in Kashmir. India blamed Pakistan for the attack.

In 2013, Sarabjit Singh, an Indian national sentenced to death for spying in Pakistan was killed in jail after being attacked by fellow inmates. He had been on death row for 16 years, Al Jazeera reminds.

In 1999, another Indian man, Sheikh Shamim, was hanged in a Pakistani jail almost 10 years after he was caught “red-handed” near the border and arrested on charges of spying.

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