Indian national Kulbhushan Jadhav, who has been incarcerated for almost 2 years in Pakistan and is on death row, was allowed to meet his wife and mother as a “humanitarian gesture” by Pakistan. As described by the Pakistan Observer editorial which showered praise on Pakistan and its officials on facilitating the meeting and the handling of it –
“Despite the fact that Commander Kulbhushan Jadhav of Indian Navy is not an ordinary prisoner or criminal but a spy and killer, Pakistan not only allowed but also facilitated meeting of his wife and mother with him in every respect and both returned to India satisfied after a 40-minute meeting”.
As details of the meeting came out, it showed Pakistan controlling the narrative on what took place and how, not just during the meeting but what occurred before it. The official statement after the meeting from the Indian Ministry of External Affairs pointed out among other things that they believed Jadhav was coached and coerced and under pressure from the Pakistan officials.
The mother and wife of Commander Jadhav sitting comfortably in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs pakistan . We honour our commitments pic.twitter.com/hILiMyp7Zl— Dr Mohammad Faisal (@ForeignOfficePk) 25 December 2017
It also noted on the conditions that were made to Jadhav’s wife and mother to remove their bangles and bindis and change into different attire. The DNA editorial called out the “shameless treatment” that was handed out to Jadhav’s family members –
“It is not just his wife but even Kulbhushan’s mother who was harassed. Imagine, for a moment, the plight of a mother meeting her son after years and forced to communicate via intercom and through a glass blockade”.
“Pakistan was hoping to score diplomatic brownie points in this endeavor but India will expose them for their hypocrisy”.
The Hindu editorial called the incident an unseemly spat and that both countries should take a step back –
Ridiculous!KulbushanJadhav's family had to remove mangalsutra bangles ,change clothes before meeting.What happened to cultural sensibilities— sonia singh (@soniandtv) 26 December 2017
“Mr. Jadhav’s meeting with his mother and his wife has led quickly to an unseemly spat, with fears that bilateral ties could now deteriorate further. India has reason to complain on several counts”.
“A gaggle of hostile journalists hurled undignified questions at the women. Pakistan would have been expected to use the visit to showcase its “humanitarian gesture”, but its conduct of the Jadhav reunion was crass”.
Once the meeting was over and Jadhav’s mother and wife stepped outside, they were greeted by hoards of Pakistani journalists, reportedly shouting questions such as “You are the mother of a terrorist, how does it feel?”
#WATCH Islamabad: Pakistani journalists heckle & harass #KulbhushanJadhav's mother & wife after their meeting with him, shout, 'aapke patidev ne hazaron begunah Pakistaniyo ke khoon se Holi kheli ispar kya kahengi?' & 'aapke kya jazbaat hain apne kaatil bete se milne ke baad?' pic.twitter.com/MUYjPmHY6F— ANI (@ANI) 26 December 2017
Regarding the Pakistani officials ordering Jadhav’s wife and mother to remove bangles, their bindis and change into proper attire, the editorial states that India’s reaction to this might be overblown –
Somedays we do a story tht disgusts us. Today was one such day. But it wasnt cuz of what I covered. Rather it was cuz of how my fellow journos behaved with mother & wife of #KulbushanJadhav whn they left FO building. They shouted taunts. It was very shameful— Taha Siddiqui (@TahaSSiddiqui) 25 December 2017
“Most prison manuals in India mandate the removal of all metal objects and most accessories, while several prisoner-family meetings around the world take place across glass screens. References to Pakistan’s “religious and cultural insensitivity” needlessly give the episode a denominational tinge”.
Pakistani news site The Nation in an editorial backed up the claim of the government that the meeting was arranged on humanitarian grounds, but cautioned that both sides in the rhetoric. There were strong opinions from both sides and the meeting was and is being scrutinized-
“There were others who were highly appreciative of Pakistan’s gesture as well – including Jadhav’s family itself. While many were appreciative of the government for considering the humanitarian aspect, nationalist groups felt outraged that a family reunion was being organized for a man dubbed as India’s “face of terror”.
For the longest time, our country has been painted as the one responsible for the growth of terrorism in the region. Jadhav and his multiple confessions are a proof of Indian activities in the region”.
The editorial seems to support the government’s claim that India has to take the blame as well for the growth of terrorism in the region despite Indian insistence that Jadhav is not a spy.
Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj, in a speech in parliament came down heavily on Pakistan and its treatment of Jadhav and his family. She spoke with Avanti, Jadhav’s mother and recounted their conversation saying Avanti felt humiliated when they asked her to remove her bindi and bangles.
One thing that seems to unite the Congress and the BJP is the Jadhav case and the common goal of bringing him back to India. Congress floor leader Mallikarjun Kharge told the government, “Set an example by getting Jadhav back. We are with you… We condemn the ill-treatment of Jadhav’s mother and wife by Pakistan”. Nirupama Subramanian, in a column for the Indian Express, writes on how Jadhav has become a political pawn for the two countries –
“The theatre should not have come as a surprise. There is shock and outrage in India, and even some among well-meaning people in Pakistan, that the meeting took place under circumstances arranged to rob it of any meaning…”
“They are mere pawns in the high-stakes game that both sides know how to play well. This is why there can be cruelty to Sarbajit, and “humanitarianism” for Jadhav. This is why a mother and a wife became the latest pawns in this game on December 25”.
The column gets to the central issue, but it’s one where the two countries have to wait to see how it plays out at the ICJ. Meanwhile, India and Pakistan would serve Jadhav well by continuing to talk and negotiate. The man at the centre of this storm; his life hangs in the balance amid a myriad of legitimate questions from both sides.
More columns by Varun Sukumar