New Delhi: Amid an outrage in parliament today, India said it will go “out of [the] way” to ensure justice to Kulbhushan Jadhav and warned Pakistan that his execution will have consequences on bilateral ties. External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj made a statement in both houses of parliament, asserting this and calling Jadhav an “innocent kidnapped Indian”.
Jadhav was awarded the death sentence by a Pakistani military court, which declared him a “spy”. The issue resonated in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, with all parties coming together to condemn the development and pressing the government to take every step to help him.
The government and the opposition have said the death sentence is an attempt to defame India and to deflect the attention of the international community from Pakistan-sponsored terrorism.
Jadhav’s execution will be taken by India as a “premeditated murder” and Pakistan should consider its consequences on bilateral relations, if it proceeds on this matter, Swaraj warned.
She added that the charges against Jadhav, who was doing business in Iran and was kidnapped and taken to Pakistan, were “concocted” and the trial against him was “farcical”, leading to an “indefensible verdict”.
“Let me state clearly that the government and the people of India would view very seriously the possibility that an innocent Indian citizen is facing death sentence in Pakistan without due process and in violation of basic norms of law, justice and international relations,” she said.
Questioning the trial, she said Pakistan had sought India’s assistance to obtain evidence for its investigation and levelled ridiculous charges against senior Indian officials who had no connection to this issue.
Thereafter, Pakistan linked providing consular access to India’s acceptance of its position. Indian response was constructive in the hope that some forward movement could be made, Swaraj said.
“We pointed out that consular access to Shri Jadhav would be an essential pre-requisite in order to verify the facts and understand the circumstances of his presence in Pakistan. Given this exchange, it is extraordinary that yesterday, a decision is suddenly announced awarding a death sentence in this case. This when previous exchanges with India itself underline the insufficiency of evidence,” she said.
To make matters even more absurd, three hours after the death sentence was announced, the Indian high commission received an official communication from the foreign ministry of Pakistan, reiterating the Pakistani proposal for conditional consular access.
“That tells us a lot about the farcical nature of the alleged proceedings which have led to an indefensible verdict against an innocent kidnapped Indian,” she asserted.
In the Rajya Sabha, leader of the opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad, while expressing outrage over the development, said the Indian government should provide Jadhav the best of the lawyers to ensure that the truth prevails.
Responding to this, Swaraj said the government will not only ensure that Jadhav is provided with the best lawyers but will also take it up with the Pakistani president.
“Whatever is necessary, we will do. We will go out of the way…,” she said, adding that Jadhav was now “not only the son of his parents, but is the son of India.”
Swaraj said, the exact circumstances under which Jadhav reached Pakistan were unclear and can only be ascertained if India had consular access to him, which was denied by the Pakistani authorities.
Such access is provided for by international law and is deemed a norm in international relations but the government of Pakistan did not permit it, she said.
Swaraj also informed parliament that a senior Pakistani leader has himself expressed doubts about the adequacy of evidence in the case.
She said she has been in touch with Jadhav’s parents and the government was extending its full support to them in this difficult situation.
Earlier in the Lok Sabha, home minister Rajnath Singh said the government will do everything possible to get justice for Jadhav.
While condemning the action, Singh said that Pakistan had ignored all norms of law and justice.
“The government strongly condemns it. All norms of law and justice were ignored. I want to assure the House that the government will do everything possible to get justice for Jadhav. He will get justice,” he said.
In the parliament barbs were frequently exchanged between treasury and opposition benches on the issue with the latter blaming the government for not taking up the matter strongly.
Leader of the Congress Mallikarjun Kharge wondered why the government remained silent on the issue. His remarks attracted the ire of BJP members who said the government was condemning the incident.
“Without an invitation, you can attend a marriage, but you cannot meet him or talk to him on the issue,” Kharge said referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Pakistan to attend the marriage of Nawaz Sharif’s granddaughter in Lahore.
Speaker Sumitra Mahajan said, “there should be no spat on the issue. We all are equally concerned about the fate of Jadhav.”
Kharge also highlighted the fact that while India granted access to Pakistan to visit Pathankot to gather evidence on terror strike, Islamabad denied counsellor access to Jadhav.
Asaduddin Owaisi of AIMIM urged the government to use its influence for the release of the Indian citizen.
Shashi Tharoor of Congress asserted that the sentence was against international norms. He said while India has always preferred not to internationalise its relations with Pakistan, it is time New Delhi tells the world that tomorrow one of their citizens can face a similar fate in Pakistan.
N.K. Premchandran of RSP, Vinayak Raut of Shiv Sena and Saugata Roy of AITC expressed similar sentiments.