Pakistan said on Monday that a military court has sentenced to death former Indian navy officer Kulbhushan Jadhav for allegedly spying and stoking violence in Balochistan, drawing an angry response from New Delhi which described it as “premeditated murder” if carried out.
India summoned the Pakistani high commissioner Abdul Basit and handed over a demarche describing the court proceedings as “farcical” and also put on hold the release of several Pakistani prisoners, scheduled for Wednesday.
Jadhav was arrested in March last year in Balochistan and accused of being a Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) agent who was fuelling the Baloch separatist movement and attempting to sabotage the $46-billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. India denies the charges.
A statement by the Pakistani military’s publicity wing, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), said Jadhav was declared guilty of waging war against the country.
“The spy was tried through field general court martial under the Pakistan army act and awarded the death sentence. Today chief of army staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa confirmed his death sentence awarded by FGCM,” the ISPR said.
“He confessed before a magistrate and the court that he was tasked by RAW to plan, coordinate and organise espionage/sabotage activities aiming to destabilise and wage war against Pakistan by impeding the efforts of law enforcement agencies for restoring peace in Balochistan and Karachi.”
Relations between the neighbours are at their lowest in several years following a string of militant attacks on defence installations in India, which New Delhi blames on Pakistan-based groups.
Shorty after the Pakistani army statement, Indian foreign secretary S Jaishankar summoned Basit – whose successor was incidentally named on Monday – and handed over the demarche.
“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,” the demarche said.
“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.”
Global human rights watchdog Amnesty International also the opposed the death sentence.
“Under Pakistan’s military courts, no information about charges or evidence against suspects is made public,” Amnesty said in a statement.
Pakistan, however, defended the sentence.