ISLAMABAD: A day after the government allowed convicted Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav to meet his wife and mother, India accused Pakistan of violating the ground rules agreed for the meeting.
A statement from the Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) claimed that Islamabad committed four violations of the agreed upon rules by: prohibiting the family from conversing in their native Marathi tongue; making the two women change their attire and remove religious symbols; preventing the Indian deputy high commissioner from observing the meeting; and, permitting media to “harass and hector” the two women.
The MEA statement claimed that the meeting was held in an “intimidating” atmosphere that lacked credibility. Pakistan has, meanwhile, denied the allegations.
In a statement, the Foreign Office rejected the Indian allegations as “baseless and twists” that came 24 hours after the meeting.
“We do not wish to indulge in a meaningless battle of words. Our openness and transparency belies these allegations. If Indian concerns were serious, the guests or the Indian [diplomat] should have raised them during the visit with the media, which was readily available, but at a safe distance, as requested by India,” the statement said.
FO says shoes of Indian spy’s wife were retained because they contained something ‘metallic’; New Delhi alleges four violations of ‘ground rules’
The FO statement recalled that Jadhav’s mother “publicly thanked Pakistan for the humanitarian gesture” in front of the media, adding: “Nothing more needs to be said”.
However, the controversy over Chetankul Jadhav’s shoes, which were retained by security officials prior to the meeting, took a new turn after the FO confirmed that a “metallic substance” had been detected in them.
“There was something in the shoe. It is being investigated. We gave her a pair of replacement shoes. All her jewellery etc were returned after the meeting,” FO spokesperson Dr Mohammad Faisal said.
Indian officials, however, insisted that the shoes of Mrs Jadhav were retained for “inexplicable reasons” and warned against “any mischievous intent in this regard”.
In pictures taken when the two women arrived at the FO on Monday, Mrs Jadhav could be seen wearing brown shoes, but left in white slippers. Curiously, all photos taken after she disembarked from the SUV that brought them to the venue showed her looking down at her shoes.
The MEA statement came after Jadhav’s mother and wife held a series of meetings with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and other top officials, including Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar and Indian Deputy High Commissioner to Pakistan J.P. Singh, who accompanied the two women from Islamabad.
It said Jadhav’s wife was asked to remove her bindi and mangal sutr, while his mother was not allowed to converse with him in their mother tongue.
Most Indian media organisations underscored the fact that Avantisudhir and Chetankul met Jadhav at the heavily-guarded FO building through a glass screen, but didn’t add that this was standard practice, observed even for visitors meeting prisoners in Indian jails.
“We note with regret that the Pakistani side conducted the meeting in a manner which violated the letter and spirit of our understandings,” Indian Express quoted MEA Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar as saying.
In its statement, the MEA said that despite a clear agreement that the media would not be allowed access to the family, “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”.
“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 said.
“‘Though the family members handled the situation with great courage and fortitude, we regret that contrary to assurances, the overall atmosphere of the meeting was intimidating insofar as family members were concerned,”’ it noted.
Our correspondent in New Delhi also contributed to this report.
Published in Dawn, December 27th, 2017