The Foreign Office (FO) on Tuesday "categorically rejected" criticism by the Indian government of the meeting between Kulbhushan Jadhav and his family members in Islamabad yesterday, saying the shoes of the Indian spy's wife were confiscated on security grounds.
"There was something in the shoe [of Jadhav's wife]," FO Spokesman Dr Muhammad Faisal told DawnNews, adding that the shoe is being investigated.
The spokesman said the wife, Chetankul, had been provided replacement shoes and all her jewellery was returned to her.
"She acknowledged that she has got back all her stuff, except the shoe," the FO spokesman said.
Dr Faisal was responding to Indian allegations that during the meeting the "cultural and religious sensibilities of family members [Jadhav's mother and wife] were disregarded under the pretext of security precautions".
"This included removal of mangal sutra, bangles and bindi, as well as a change in attire that was not warranted by security," complained India's Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).
It claimed Jadhav's wife's shoes were removed "for some inexplicable reason, [and] despite her repeated requests... not returned to her after the meeting" and added: "We would caution against any mischievous intent in this regard."
But the FO said: "If Indian concerns were serious, the guests or the Indian DHC [deputy high commissioner] should have raised them during the visit, with the media, which was readily available, but at a safe distance, as requested by India."
Saying Pakistan does not wish to indulge in a "meaningless battle of words", the spokesman in a statement said it is a fact that Jadhav's mother "publicly thanked Pakistan for the humanitarian gesture".
"Nothing more needs to be said," he concluded.
Jadhav meeting 'an exercise that lacked any credibility'
India's foreign ministry had earlier in the day roundly criticised the meeting between Jadhav and his family members — arranged by Pakistan as a goodwill gesture — as an 'exercise that lacked any credibility'.
The meeting had been granted by Pakistan to India 21 months after Jadhav's arrest on "humanitarian grounds" and as a gesture of goodwill on Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah's birthday.
However, "We note with regret that the Pakistani side conducted the meeting in a manner which violated the letter and spirit of our understandings," India complained in a statement hours after Jadhav's wife and mother met officials at the MEA in New Delhi, where they were likely debriefed.
Avanti and Chetankul Jadhav also held a three-hour-long meeting with Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj.
During the trio's meeting — arranged at the Foreign Office in Islamabad — Jadhav had spoken to his wife and mother via an intercom from across a glass screen. Foreign Office officials and Indian Deputy High Commissioner JP Singh had monitored the encounter through another glass screen.
The women had made a stop at the Indian High Commission upon their arrival in Islamabad prior to the meeting with Jadhav.
However, India complained on Tuesday that its envoy "was initially separated from family members who were taken to the meeting without informing him."
"The meeting was started without his [Singh's] presence and he could join only after pressing the matter with concerned officials. Even then, he was kept behind an additional partition that did not allow him access to the meeting as agreed," the statement said.
India also described "the overall atmosphere of the meeting" as "intimidating insofar as family members were concerned."
Despite a "clear agreement that the media would not be allowed close access" to Avanti and Chetankul, "the Pakistani press was allowed on multiple occasions to approach family members closely, harass and hector them and hurl false and motivated accusations about Jadhav," the MEA alleged.
Jadhav's mother was also prevented from speaking to him in their mother tongue, the MEA complained. "She was repeatedly interrupted while doing so and eventually prevented from proceeding further in this regard."
'Jadhav speaking under coercion'
The MEA also claimed that "from the feedback we have received of the meeting, it appears that Jadhav was under considerable stress and speaking in an atmosphere of coercion."
"Most of his remarks were clearly tutored and designed to perpetuate the false narrative of his alleged activities in Pakistan. His appearance also raises questions of his health and well being," the statement read.
"The manner in which the meeting was conducted and its aftermath was clearly an attempt to bolster a false and unsubstantiated narrative of Jadhav’s alleged activities," the MEA said.
"You would all agree that this exercise lacked any credibility."
The Foreign Office on Monday, in a press briefing after the meeting, had played a pre-recorded video message from Jadhav thanking the Pakistani government for permitting the meeting. It also included a confession from him for his involvement in espionage.
The FO also issued medical reports that showed Jadhav is in good health, and asserted that it was not the Indian spy's last meeting with his family.