A military court in Pakistan has sentenced an alleged Indian spy to death on charges of “espionage and sabotage” activities against the country, a rare move likely to fuel bilateral tensions.
An army spokesman, while announcing details of the decision Monday, identified the man as Kulbushan Sudhir Jadhav of India’s primary foreign intelligence agency, Research and Analysis Wing (RAW).
Jadhav was arrested through a “counterintelligence operation” in Pakistan’s violence-hit southwestern Baluchistan province in March 2016, and the military court found him guilty of all charges, said Major-General Asif Ghafoor.
“The spy has been tried through Field General Court Martial (FGCM) … and awarded death sentence,” Ghafoor added and said the Pakistan army chief signed off on the verdict.
The spokesman reiterated that Jadhav was a serving Indian navy officer and tasked by RAW “to plan, coordinate and organize espionage/sabotage activities aiming to destabilize and wage war against Pakistan.”
New Delhi has acknowledged that Jadhav was a retired Indian naval officer, but rejected he was connected in any way to the government.
Shortly after Monday’s announcement by the Pakistan army, India summoned the Pakistan High Commissioner and condemned the proceedings against Jadhav “as farcical in the absence of any credible evidence against him.”
An Indian Foreign Ministry statement said Jadhav was kidnapped from Iran and his subsequent presence in Pakistan has never been “credibly”explained. Since his arrest, India has made 13 requests, including one last month to seek consular access to Jadhav, but this was not permitted by Islamabad, it added.
Pakistani officials maintain the law does not allow consular access to detainees facing anti-state spying charges.
India also dismissed as “clearly absurd in the circumstances” the Pakistan army’s assertions that Jahhav was provided, during what India called the “so-called trial,” with a defending officer.
“If this sentence against an Indian citizen, awarded without observing basic norms of law and justice, is carried out, the government and people of India will regard it as a case of premeditated murder,” it warned.
The Pakistan military released a confessional video shortly after Jadhav’s arrest in which he gave details of anti-Pakistan operations launched from neighboring Iran.
“I am still a serving officer in the Indian Navy … I commenced intelligence operations in 2003, and established a small business in Chabahar in Iran. As I was able to achieve undetected existence and visits to Karachi in 2003 and 2004, … I was picked up by RAW in 2013, and ever since I have been directing various activities in Baluchistan and Karachi at the behest of RAW, and deteriorating law and order situation in Karachi,” said Jadhav.
The issue has also become an irritant in Islamabad’s relations with Tehran. Soon after his arrest, Pakistani officials asked Iran to investigate Jadhav’s activities on its soil.
Pakistani officials say they have also shared with the United Nations documents detailing Jadhav’s confession and other subversive acts India is allegedly undertaking to destabilize Pakistan.
Relations between the two nuclear-armed rival nations have deteriorated in recent years and a wide-ranging bilateral dialogue aimed at normalizing ties remains suspended.
The two countries have lately engaged in intense military clashes along the dispute border in Kashmir, a divide Himalayan region both India and Pakistan claim in its entirety.