The meeting permitted by Pakistan between Kulbhushan Jadhav, the retired Indian Navy officer on death row in Pakistan on charges of spying, and his mother and wife in Islamabad on Monday, was a laughable choreographed attempt at perception management. Pakistan has tried to play the event as a humanitarian gesture in keeping with Islam’s idealistic principles. It became evident, however, that through a show of humanitarianism Islamabad was seeking to produce a favourable impact on the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at the Hague. The ICJ is hearing India’s appeal for Mr Jadhav’s early release after the court stayed his execution earlier this year, upholding New Delhi’s contention that the former naval officer was given the death sentence by a Pakistani military court without being given fair trial, legal representation or consular access, in violation of the Vienna Convention.
India’s case is that the retired officer was engaged in legitimate business in Iran and was abducted from there by Pakistanis and presented as an Indian spy seeking to foment terrorist activity in Pakistan. Long infamous for backing terrorists, thus jeopardising regional peace, Islamabad seeks to manufacture so-called evidence that may suggest that it is, in fact, India that promotes terrorism. The “meeting” between Mr Jadhav and his mother and wife, who had specially flown to Islamabad for the opportunity after their pleas bore fruit, was in fact no meeting. They were separated by a glass barrier and spoke through the intercom. India’s deputy high commissioner was present, but only to watch the proceedings through another glass partition and not able to hear the conversation.
In short, the “meeting” was notional. This was the extent of Pakistan’s humanitarian gesture on the birth anniversary of its founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah, which Islamabad officially advertised. To add to the tawdriness of the exercise, and underlining the strictly proximate nature of an event billed as an emotional family meeting after Mr Jadhav’s 22 months on death row, it was held in a shipping container in the Pakistan foreign ministry’s parking lot, not even in a proper room. The Pakistan government released a video that showed Mr Jadhav thanking Pakistan for its kindness. However, the video shows what looks to be a torture mark on the prisoner’s neck. India has so far not commented on this. But a government spokesman on Tuesday accused Pakistan of cultural insensitivities. The prisoner’s relatives were asked to remove a mangalsutra and bindi on the pretext of security, and his wife’s shoes were not returned to her. The stage-managing of this so-called emotional family drama was meant to impress the ICJ, not to earn brownie points with Indian public opinion or the Indian authorities. The theatre over, Islamabad will resume firing across the Line of Control and push terrorists into Jammu and Kashmir.