India seeks access to Kulbhushan, demands repatriation of 400 prisoners
The External Affairs Ministry issued a note verbale to Pakistan High Commission on Tuesday seeking access to Kulbhushan Jadhav, who has been arrested on charges of espionage. Apart from this, New Delhi also asked Islamabad to release 10 Indians who have completed their sentence but are still languishing in Pakistani jails. The repatriation of 385 fishermen, along with their boats, was also demanded.
Jadhav, a former Indian Navy officer, was given a death sentence by a military court. Pakistan alleged Jadhav is a spy but India has maintained he is innocent. The high-profile case was last heard in February at International Court of Justice in Hague where both parties furnished their arguments. Notably, Pakistan has repeatedly denied India access to Jadhav citing flimsy reasons.
New Delhi put Jadhav in the category of Indian civilians arrested in Pakistan. Apart from him, India also sought access to other prisoners namely Mohammad Javaid, Abdul Hameed, Muhammad Ismail, and Salfikar Ali. There are at least 10 Indian civilians who completed their sentence in 2014 or 2015 but haven't returned home. India underlined that delay in the release of prisoners was concerning.
"Consular access to Indian fishermen and prisoners in Pakistan jails is inordinately delayed. Such delays cause an avoidable delay in confirmation of their nationality and thus detrimental to the timely release of prisoners and fishermen," the unsigned diplomatic correspondence read.
Apart from civilians and fishermen, India also raised the issue of "missing" defense personnel and Prisoners of War with Pakistan. It was reminded that the government of Pakistan hasn't shown any interest in locating and releasing Indian defense members, believed to be in its custody. "It is requested that necessary arrangements may be made for their early release and repatriation," read the note verbale.
India also pointed out that Pakistan didn't inform about the death of Indian fisherman Bhikha s/o Bhagwan, immediately. "Our Mission in Islamabad had been repeatedly taking up the matter of the poor health condition of Bhikha. The Government of Pakistan has not intimated the circumstances and causes leading to the death of Bhikha," India said and added Bhikha's death wasn't the standalone case.
According to an agreement signed on 21 May 2008, India and Pakistan share details of prisoners lodged in each other's jails twice a year- on January 1 and July 1. In 2018, the agreement was revived to look into the humanitarian issue of fishermen and civilians who have been held captive. To recall, India and Pakistan witnessed the worst escalation in decades, after the Pulwama attack.