By Iqbal Khan
When Indian media and parliament were belittling Pakistan over Jadhav’s meeting with his mother and wife, they should have also taken stock as to how India treats its own prisoners. Indian MPs need to go through the memoir of journalist Iftikhar Gilani arrested for several months on false charges of spying. Gilani narrated in his book “My days in Prison” about the way his meeting took place with his wife: “I saw Aanisa. She was looking tired and pale. It was extremely frustrating not to be able to talk to her without the barriers. It was very difficult to see her under the watchful eyes of my tormentors. I could see Aanisa was also under great anxiety … Just getting to jail was difficult, and added to that was the incontestable humiliation at the hands of the jail staff she had to contend with.” Afzal Guru and Maqbool Butt are other examples of the way India illtreats its own prisoners. Let Jadhav be the judge, as to which of the two countries treat their prisoners more humanely.
While Indian Foreign Minister Shushma Swaraj is known for playing dirty on grant of visa to Pakistani nationals even for pilgrimage and medical treatment, Indian Navy Commander Jadhav’s mother publicly thanked Pakistan for the humanitarian gesture. In a video message, Jadhav also thanked Pakistan’s government for setting up the meeting. “Thankful to the government of Pakistan for this kindness.” Pakistan’s Foreign Minister aptly put it: “We have allowed access to Jadhav’s family purely on a humanitarian basis. However, if we were in the same place, India wouldn’t have been so kind to us.” It is deplorable that as Pakistan was arranging a meeting of terrorist-spy Jadhav with his family members, Indian troops engaged in unprovoked firing on the Line of Control killing three Pakistani soldiers and injuring another on Rakhchikri sector.
And Shushma could not digest the good will earned by Pakistan, so she decided to erode it by co-opting Indian media operatives, her loyalists since her minister of information days; earlier this brigade had ganged up to sabotage the Agra summit in 2001. That missed opportunity of instituting lasting peace between Pakistan and India has ever since been slipping farther and farther away. The Agra summit was a historic two-day summit meeting between India and Pakistan organized with the aim of resolving long-standing issues between India and Pakistan. During that meeting, a proposal was made to drastically reduce nuclear arsenal, and other issues involving the Kashmir dispute, and cross-border terrorism. However, the negotiations broke down under pressure from frenzied Indian media, and the process collapsed, so the “Agra Treaty” was never signed
Meeting of Commander Jadhav with his mother and wife was permitted on humanitarian grounds, in lines with Islamic teachings and traditions of compassion and grace. The meeting initially scheduled for 30 minutes was extended to 40 minutes on their request. The success of the meeting was evident by the fact that the mother thanked Pakistan after the visit.
The visitors were treated with respect and dignity. The change of clothes and removal of ornaments etc was purely for security reasons. The visitors changed into their own clothes after the meeting. All their belongings were returned to them before they left. The wife’s shoes were retained as they did not clear the security check, a metal chip has been found in one of the shoes, which is being analysed. Many routine airport security checks for ordinary people entail removal of Christian crosses and Muslim veils.
The meeting was not allowed to be conducted in Marathi due to security reasons. There is nothing sinister in that. All three spoke comfortably in English for about 40 minutes which is duly recorded, India was given advance information that the conversation would be recorded.
Pakistan formally proposed a detailed media interaction of the visitors, including with Indian media to be held in the Foreign Office. This was even shared with the Pakistani media, well beforehand. However, this proposal was turned down by India in writing. This was respected and the Indian request was accepted. However, media has every right to ask questions from a safe distance, in line with international norms. The situation on ground in Ministry of Foreign Affairs was shown to the officers of Indian High Commission in the evening of 24 December and they consented to it.
Times of India quoted Indian External Affairs minister as reporting to the two houses on Indian parliament: “Pakistan made Kulbhushan Jadhav’s wife and mother appear as widows to him, by forcing them to take off their mangalsutra, bindi and bangles.” She also called “an absurdity beyond measure”, Pakistan’s allegation that there was a chip or a camera in Jadhav’s wife Chetankul’s shoes. “Thank God they didn’t say that there was a bomb in her shoes,” exclaimed the minister.
In a display of absurd emotionalism Swaraj also told the Rajya Sabha that she spoke with Jadhav’s mother Avanti and that she explained, her voice choking with tears, how they made her remove her “suhaag ki nishani”, or “symbols of marriage”. “I begged them saying I’ve never taken off mangalsutra ever, but they said I have to,” Swaraj recounted. “The first thing Kulbhushan said to me, when I went in to meet him is ‘How is baba’, because he thought something had happened when he saw me without mangalsutra, bindi and bangles,” Avanti explained to Swaraj. “A meeting of a mother with her son and a wife with her husband was turned into a propaganda tool by Pakistan,” said Swaraj as she mentioned the further humiliation of Avanti by Pakistani officials. “She (Avanti) wears only saree and she was forced to wear salwar kurta, this was insulting,” explained Swaraj to the House, as it erupted with cries of “shame, shame”. The minister reiterated about Pakistan breaking an agreement with India to shield the Jadhav family members from the media. “It was specifically agreed upon by both sides that media will not be allowed to come close to the family but Pakistani press not only came close to them but also harassed them and hurled taunts at them,” said Swaraj.
Addressing a news conference after the meeting with his family members, Pakistan’s Foreign Office Spokesperson said it was not the Indian spy’s last meeting. “This meeting has nothing to do with the case pending before the International Court of Justice or with politics,” he added. Jadhav’s wife and mother were both our guests, he said, adding: “They came and left in an honourable fashion.”
Jadhav is the Indian spy as “the face of Indian terrorism in Pakistan” and detailed his confessions before the press. Jadhav has confessed that he worked for Indian intelligence agency RAW, adding that he entered Pakistan through Iran. He shared that he was arrested by Pakistan’s security agencies from Balochistan. Jadhav was operating from within and outside Pakistan and he caused deaths of many Pakistanis and more deaths were also possible. He has admitted to involvement in the assassination of senior superintendent of police, targeting of Frontier Works Organization activities in Balochistan, and improvised explosive device attacks in Quetta, Turbat and other cities in Balochistan. The spy also confessed to supporting the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan and other groups, especially in the attack on the Mehran Naval Base, various radar installations and the Sui gas pipeline attack.
Jadhav is an icon of India’s crude involvement in terrorist and subversive activities in Pakistan. Still Pakistan showed magnanimity in arranging a meeting with his family members. Pakistan does not wish to indulge in fallacious accusations and blame game. India should focus on the bigger positive outcome, that the meeting happened.
*The writer is a freelance columnist and can be reached at Iqbal.firstname.lastname@example.org