Kulbhushan Jadhav row: After Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj's statement, Pakistan defence minister says it's 'strong enough to defend itself'
Jadhav was arrested in March 2016. (Image source: Battle Machines, YouTube) Photograph: (Others)
Pakistan defence minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif, speaking in Parliament on Kulbhushan Jadhav's death sentence, reiterated his country's hardline stand on the issue. He openly hit back at Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj's statement in Parliament, and declared, "Pakistan is strong enough to defend itself. The desire for peace should not be seen as a weakness."
"We have 80,000 troops stationed along the LoC (Line of Control)," he stated in Pakistan Parliament.
Meanwhile, Opposition parties in India raised the issue of Kulbhushan Jadhav, who has been sentenced to death by a military court in Pakistan, on charges of being a spy.
As parliamentarians from different political parties condemned Pakistan's move, "Save Kulbhushan" was the sentiment that echoed in Lok Sabha, the Lower House of Indian Parliament. Swaraj warned Pakistan of consequences on diplomatic relations if the latter carries out the death sentence on Jadhav.
"There is no evidence of wrongdoing by Jadhav. If anything, he is the victim of a plan that seeks to cast aspersions on India to deflect international attention from Pakistan's well-known record of sponsoring and supporting terrorism," Sushma Swaraj said in a statement in both Houses of Parliament.
"Under these circumstances, we have no choice but to regard the sentence, if carried out, as an act of pre-meditated murder," she said, adding that the sentence by the Pakistani military court was based on "concocted charges".
"Let me state clearly that the government and the people of India would view very seriously the possibility that an innocent Indian citizen is facing a death sentence in Pakistan without due process and in violation of basic norms of law, justice and international relations.
"I would caution the Pakistan government to consider the consequences for our bilateral relationship if they proceed on this matter," Swaraj said.
Replying to a suggestion by Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, Swaraj said the government will not only ensure that Jadhav is provided with the best of lawyers in the Supreme Court of Pakistan, but will take up it with the President of Pakistan also.
"Whatever is necessary, we will do," she said, adding that Jadhav was "not only the son of his parents, but is the son of India."
Swaraj said Jadhav was doing business in Iran and was abducted and taken to Pakistan. "The exact circumstances are unclear and can only be ascertained if we have consular access to him", which has been denied by the Pakistani authorities.
"It is extraordinary that yesterday, a decision is suddenly announced awarding a death sentence in this case when previous exchanges with India itself underlines the insufficiency of evidence," she said.
Indian interior minister Rajnath Singh questioned Pakistan's allegations of Jadhav being a spy and said he had a valid Indian visa.
"Indian Government will do whatever possible for Kulbhushan Jadhav... want to assure all that justice will be done with him," Singh said.
Early today, Congress called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to intervene and secure Jadhav's release.
"Death sentence is a deliberate provocation to India. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government needs to travel beyond advisories. PM must intervene to secure his release," senior Congress leader and party spokesperson Randeep S Surjewala said on Twitter.
2/3 Death sentence is a deliberate provocation to India. BJP Govt needs to travel beyond advisories. PM must intervene to secure his release— Randeep S Surjewala (@rssurjewala) April 11, 2017
Hours after Pakistan announced that Jadhav, who was arrested in March 2016, has been sentenced to death, India on Monday halted the release of 12 Pakistani prisoners who were scheduled to be repatriated on Wednesday after the completion of their prison term.
Officials told news agency PTI that the Indian government feels it is not the right time for the release of the Pakistani prisoners.
Jadhav was sentenced to death by a military court for "his involvement in espionage and sabotage activities against Pakistan", Pakistan media reported quoting Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the military's media wing.
"The spy has been tried through Field General Court Martial (FGCM) under Pakistan Army Act and awarded death sentence," the ISPR said in a statement.
Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa confirmed his death sentence, the statement added.
India on Monday also summoned Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit and issued a demarche for awarding the death sentence to Jadhav.
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said the Indian High Commission in Islamabad was not informed about Jadhav's trial.
Jadhav was kidnapped from Iran last year and according to MEA his presence in Pakistan has never been explained credibly by the Pakistani authorities.
"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," a statement from MEA read.
(WION with inputs from DNA and PTI)