ISLAMABAD: For the first time since Pakistan detained Kulbhushan Jadhav in 2016, a top Indian diplomat met him on Monday for two hours and reported that he appeared to be under "extreme pressure" to parrot a false narrative to bolster Islamabad's untenable claims in his case.
Charge d'Affaires at the Indian High Commission in Islamabad Gaurav Ahluwalia met Jadhav for two hours after Pakistan granted consular access to the retired Indian Navy officer following a directive from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in July.
Jadhav, 49, was sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court on charges of "espionage and terrorism" in April 2017, following which India had moved the Hague-based ICJ, seeking a stay on his death sentence and further remedies.
India had been seeking consular access to Jadhav for the past three years.
The consular access to Jadhav came in the midst of spiralling tensions between the two countries after India withdrew Jammu and Kashmir's special status and bifurcated it into two union territories.
On August 7, Pakistan expelled Indian High Commissioner Ajay Bisaria after it downgraded the diplomatic ties with India over the Kashmir issue.
The Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi said Jadhav appeared to be under "extreme pressure" to parrot a false narrative to bolster Islamabad's untenable claims in his case.
Ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said Monday's consular access is a part of the "binding obligations" of Pakistan as ordered by the ICJ to ensure effective review and reconsideration of the conviction and sentence awarded to Jadhav through a "farcical process".
"While we await a comprehensive report, it was clear that Jadhav appeared to be under extreme pressure to parrot a false narrative to bolster Pakistan's untenable claims," he said.
"We will decide a further course of action after receiving a detailed report from our Charge d'Affaires and determining the extent of conformity to the ICJ directives," he added.
"The government remains committed to continue to work towards ensuring that Jadhav receives justice at the earliest and returns safely to India," Kumar said.
He also said that External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar has spoken to Jadhav's mother and briefed her about the latest developments.
In Islamabad, the Foreign Office said in a statement that consular access was provided at 1200 hours (1230 hrs IST) and lasted for two hours.
The consular access happened "in the presence of officials of the Government of Pakistan," it said.
On India's request, there was no restriction on the language of communication, the FO said, adding that the "access was recorded".
"As a responsible member of the international community and in line with our international commitments, Pakistan has provided un-impeded, uninterrupted consular access to India to Commander Jadhav," the statement said without disclosing the venue of meeting.
However, the Pakistani media reported that the meeting took place at a sub-jail here.
Before meeting Jadhav, the senior Indian diplomat met Pakistan Foreign Office spokesperson Mohammad Faisal at the foreign ministry.
On August 1, the Foreign Office said the retired Indian Navy officer will be granted consular access the next day.
However, the meeting, which was scheduled for 3 pm on August 2, did not materialise amid differences between India and Pakistan on the terms of the consular access to Jadhav.
India had demanded "immediate, effective and unhindered" consular access to Jadhav from Pakistan and was in touch with Islamabad through diplomatic channels.
On Sunday, Faisal tweeted that consular access for Jadhav will be provided on September 2 "in line with Vienna Convention on Consular relations, ICJ judgement & the laws of Pakistan".
On July 17, the ICJ ordered Pakistan to undertake an "effective review and reconsideration" of the conviction and sentence of Jadhav and also to grant consular access to India without further delay.
Pakistan claims that its security forces arrested Jadhav from the restive Balochistan province on March 3, 2016 after he reportedly entered from Iran.
However, India maintains that Jadhav was kidnapped from Iran where he had business interests after retiring from the Navy.
In December 2017, the wife and mother of Jadhav were allowed to meet him at the Foreign Office - but from behind a glass screen.