– Kiran -
THE people of country and the media were so engrossed in the developments leading up to the general elections 2018 that an important event has gone almost unnoticed. The International Court of Justice is about to commence hearing of the Kalbhushan Yadhav case after the submission of final counter-memorial by Pakistan last Tuesday. The outcome of the hearing could have a profound effect on relations between India and Pakistan as well as prospect of peace and security in the region. Under the circumstances reminiscing Kalbhushan Yadhav episode seems a legitimate undertaking.
Kalbhushan Sudhir Yadhav a serving commander in the Indian navy who was working as an agent of RAW was arrested in the province of Balochistan during a counter-intelligence operation on 3rd March 2016. In his confessional statement while under investigation, he admitted that Indian intelligence agency RAW was involved in destabilising Pakistan and he was a serving officer of the Indian navy working in Pakistan at its behest. He further stated “I will be due for retirement in 2022. By 2002 I commenced intelligence operations. In 2003 I established a small business in Chabahar in Iran. As I was able to achieve undetected existence and visits to Karachi in 2003 and 2004 and having done some basic assignments within India for RAW I was picked up by the agency in 2013”
He also acknowledged that he launched a covert operation against Pakistan from the Iranian port of Chahbahar for which he used to get instructions from Joint Secretary of RAW Anil Gupta. According to him RAW had been funding the Baloch separatists for carrying out their insurgency operations. Kalbhushan also confessed that he had been directing various activities in Karachi and Balochistan on directions from RAW since 2013 and had a role in the deteriorating law and order situation in Karachi.
Giving further details about Kalbhushan DG ISPR Asim Bajwa told the press that Kalbhushan converted to Islam, adopted a false identity and worked at Gadani under the cover of a scrap dealer. He stated that Jadhav established a network of operatives, provided funds, arranged to smuggle people into the country for the purpose of terrorism and reportedly purchased boats at the Iranian port in Chabahar to target Karachi and Gwadar ports in an alleged terrorist plot. According to him, Jadhav’s goal was to sabotage the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor through propaganda – with Gwadar port as a special target – and also to create disharmony among the Baloch nationalist political parties. He also said that Jadhav told the interrogators to use a code phrase – “your monkey is with us” – to inform his handlers and the Indian authorities about his arrest. Asim also claimed to have confiscated maps from him and enunciated that there could be no clearer evidence of foreign interference in Pakistan. India however rejected the video confession.
Since the halting of the execution by ICJ, India has made two written submission to the ICJ and Pakistan has accordingly given rejoinders to them
Kalbhushan was found in possession of an Indian passport with his assumed name of Hussain Mubarak on which he had been travelling out of India and returning to the country during that period. Though the Indian government did recognise him as a former naval officer but denied any current links with him maintaining that he took premature retirement and was abducted from Iran. In April 2016, Islamabad briefed diplomats of various countries regarding Jadhav’s arrest and his claimed involvement in terrorist activities. The evidence was also shared with the United States and United Kingdom separately.
On 10 April 2017 Yadhav was sentenced to death by a Field General Court Martial. India continued asking for consular access to Yadhav which was rightly denied contending that consular access was not automatic in cases related to security. However on humanitarian grounds, Pakistan government did allow mother and wife of Kalbhushan to have an interface with him at the ministry of foreign affairs; a gesture which did not go well with India who criticised Pakistan for handling the visit of the wife and mother of Yadhav saying they were harassed and prevented from talking to him freely.
Following the sentencing, the government of India summoned Pakistani High Commissioner to India, Abdul Basit and issued a demarche stating that the proceedings that led to Yadhav’s sentencing were farcical and that India would regard Yadhav’s execution as murder of the first degree. In a statement issued in the Parliament of India on 11 April 2017, Rajnath Singh, India’s Minister of Home Affairs, reiterated that Jadhav was kidnapped by Pakistani agencies from Iran and put through trial as a RAW agent. Sushma Swaraj, india’s minister of external affairs, said there was no evidence of any wrongdoing by Yadhav and termed his sentencing an act of “premeditated murder”. Swaraj said that if Pakistan implemented the death sentence, the bilateral relations between both countries would face dire consequences.
In May 2017, India approached the International Court of Justice (ICJ), asserting that Pakistani authorities were denying India its right of consular access to Yadhav in violation of Vienna Convention. The ICJ proceedings began in The Hague on 15 May to review the case. India and Pakistan both sent their legal teams to put forward their arguments, led by Harish Salve and Khawar Qureshi respectively. On 18 May 2017, the International Court of Justice stayed the hanging of Yadhav.
On 22 June 2017, Pakistani sources confirmed that Yadhav had sought clemency from the country’s army chief following his conviction. Pakistan also released a new confessional video of Yadhav, in which he stated that he visited Karachi twice for gathering intelligence on naval facilities. He also admitted to supporting and funding, on behalf of India’s RAW, Baloch militants affiliated with the BLA and BRA, in addition to infiltrating and establishing “30 to 40 RAW operatives along the Makran Coast” for involvement in terrorist activities. Yadhav said that RAW’s activities in Balochistan and Sindh were conducted under the direction of Anil Kumar Dhasmana. India’s foreign ministry again dismissed the confession as “false propaganda”, stating that Pakistan was trying to influence ICJ proceedings while denying the consular rights to Yadhav.
Since the halting of the execution by ICJ, India has made two written submission to the ICJ and Pakistan has accordingly given rejoinders to them. Pakistan submitted its final counter-memorial on last Tuesday following which the ICJ is likely to commence formal hearing of the case. What will be the outcome of this battle cannot be predicted for sure but ostensibly Pakistan has a strong case. The spokesman of the ministry of foreign affairs in his weekly briefing sounded very confident about Pakistan’s chances of carrying the day. His confidence was premised on very pertinent questions i.e. why did commander Yadhav possess a passport in the name of Hussain Mubarak Patel? If the passport was a fake document then how could he travel out of India 17 times, including from Mumbai and New Delhi? If it was real, how could he be in possession of a passport in a fake name? And if he was retired as per Indian claims then why did India fail to produce his retirement or pension papers? The questions posed by Pakistan would be difficult for India to answer to the satisfaction of the ICJ who believably would need authentic, credible and irrefutable evidence by India to nullify Pakistani stance on the issue.