ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has announced that it will provide consular access to Kulbhushan Jadhav, an Indian serving naval commander sentenced on charges of espionage and terrorism, on Monday (today) in line with the Vienna Convention and the July 17 verdict of the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
The announcement was made by Foreign Office spokesman Dr Mohammad Faisal through his official social media account on Twitter on Sunday.
“Consular access for Indian spy Commander Kulbhushan Jadhav, a serving Indian naval officer and RAW (Research and Analysis Wing) operative, is being provided on Monday (September 2, 2019), in line with Vienna Convention on Consular relations, ICJ judgement and the laws of Pakistan,” tweets the FO spokesman.
“Commander Jadhav remains in Pakistan’s custody for espionage, terrorism and sabotage,” Mr Faisal said in another tweet.
There was no official word from New Delhi over this latest offer by Pakistan, but sources quoted an unnamed official of the Indian High Commission in Islamabad as saying that they “will study the offer”. The sources further quoted the official as saying that “our position on the access has been clarified that it should be nothing short of unimpeded and unrestricted”.
Pakistan has already downgraded its diplomatic ties with India and suspended bilateral trade in response to New Delhi’s move to annex occupied Kashmir.
Delhi will study offer, says Indian High Commission official
The decision was made by the National Security Committee (NSC) on Aug 8, three days after India announced revocation of Article 370, which gave occupied Kashmir an autonomous status, and legislated to bifurcate the valley into Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir.
Hours after the NSC meeting, an FO statement said New Delhi had been asked to withdraw High Commissioner Ajay Bisaria from Islamabad. Pakistan’s High Commissioner-designate Moinul Haq, who was expected to travel to India on Aug 16 for assuming charge of his office, was also stopped from proceeding to Delhi.
Last month, Pakistan made a formal offer to India to provide consular access to Jadhav and since then it has been awaiting a response from the other side.
Speaking in New Delhi, Indian foreign ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar had confirmed that they had received the proposal from Pakistan, but said they were evaluating the proposal in the light of the ICJ judgement. He had declared that India would maintain communication with Pakistan in this matter through diplomatic channels.
Jadhav was arrested on March 3, 2016, in a counter-intelligence operation in Balochistan. A military court awarded him death sentence on April 10, 2017, following his confession that he had mounted operations for RAW to conduct terrorist activities on Pakistani soil.
In June 2017, the Indian spy filed a mercy petition against death penalty, in which he again confessed to his involvement in terrorist activities.
However, before Pakistani authorities could make a final decision, the ICJ, after being approached by India, ordered a stay in his execution through an interim order.
In its final verdict announced on July 17, the ICJ asked Pakistan to provide consular access to Jadhav under the Vienna Convention.
However, the Hague-based ICJ had rejected India’s request for acquittal, release and return of Commander Jadhav.
Following the verdict, the FO had announced that that as a responsible state, Pakistan would grant consular access to Jadhav according to the country’s laws, for which modalities were being worked out.
It said that pursuant to the ICJ judgement, Jadhav had been informed of his rights under Article 36, Paragraph 1(b) of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.
In its verdict that followed proceedings lasting about two years, the UN’s top court did not accept India’s contention that Jadhav was entitled to ‘restitutio in integrum’ (restoration to original position) and turned down its request to annul the decision of the Pakistani military court.
Instead, it ruled that Pakistan by means of its own choosing could undergo an effective review and reconsideration of the sentence awarded to Jadhav.
The ICJ said that even though it had found Pakistan in violation of Article 36 the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (VCCR), “it is not the conviction and sentence of Mr Jadhav which are to be regarded as a violation of Article 36 of the Vienna Convention.”
The most the ICJ said it could do was to order Pakistan to cease violation of Article 36 and review the case in light of how that violation might have affected the case’s outcome.
“The court notes that Pakistan acknowledges that the appropriate remedy in the present case would be effective review and reconsideration of the conviction and sentence,” it observed.
To this end, Pakistan was directed to immediately inform Jadhav of his rights under Article 36, grant India consular access, and then review the case while considering, under the laws of Pakistan, how not doing so earlier might have impacted the case’s outcome.
“The Court notes that the obligation to provide effective review and reconsideration can be carried out in various ways. The choice of means is left to Pakistan,” the ICJ added. However, it stressed that “Pakistan shall take all measures to provide for effective review and reconsideration, including, if necessary, by enacting appropriate legislation.”
In December 2017, Pakistan had allowed family members of Jadhav to have a meeting with him. India later accused Pakistan of harassing Jadhav’s family during the meeting that it said was held in an “atmosphere of coercion”. Pakistan on the other hand had denied the allegation.
Published in Dawn, September 2nd, 2019