NEW DELHI: India lashed out at Pakistan on Thursday for its alleged treatment of the wife and mother of an Indian naval officer on death row for spying during their first meeting since his arrest.
India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj accused Pakistan of disregarding the cultural and religious sensibilities of Kulbhushan Jadhav’s family under the pretext of security precautions, including the removal of bangles and other ornaments as well as a change in attire and shoes.
Swaraj in a statement cried out to India’s Parliament that Monday’s meeting in the Pakistani capital could have proved to be a positive step in improving ties between the two countries.
The meeting was the first between Jadhav and his family since he was arrested by Pakistan in March 2016 after entering the country from Iran.
A Pakistani military tribunal found Jadhav guilty of espionage and sabotage and sentenced him to death, but India obtained an order from the International Court of Justice to halt the execution.
Pakistan said it allowed the meeting as a “humanitarian gesture” following India’s request. While India says that Jadhav is a retired Indian navy official, the Pakistan government has been describing him as a serving officer.
Swaraj accused the Pakistan government of using the meeting as a “propaganda tool” and violating mutual understandings on the meeting.
During the meeting, Jadhav was seen sitting behind a glass screen in the Pakistani Foreign Office while his mother and wife sat on the other side. They spoke through an intercom for nearly 40 minutes.
The Indian minister said the Pakistani press was allowed on multiple occasions to approach family members closely, harass and hector them and hurl accusations about Jadhav. She said this was despite a clear agreement between the two sides that the media would not be allowed close access.
Jadhav’s mother was prevented from talking to her son in their mother tongue, although this was clearly the natural medium of communication, Swaraj said
Despite her repeated requests, the shoes of Jadhav’s wife were not returned to her after the meeting, she said.
India’s opposition joined Swaraj in a rare moment of Parliamentary unity to strongly condemning Pakistan on the issue.
Leaders from the main opposition Congress party and other parties asked the government to lodge a protest with Pakistan and expedite efforts at the International Court of Justice to seek Jadhav’s acquittal in the case. —AP