The already troubled India-Pakistan relationship has been plunged into deep uncertainty after Kulbhushan Jadhav, an Indian alleged spy, was sentenced on Monday (April 10, 2017) to death for espionage and sabotage activities in Pakistan.
Monday's development comes at a time when tensions between Pakistan and India run high. The past six months have seen a war of words between officials from the Indian and Pakistani governments.
Ties between the nuclear-armed neighbors worsened after India blamed Pakistan for an attack on an Indian military camp in Uri inside India-administered Kashmir on Sept 18, 2016 where around 20 Indian soldiers were killed.
India alleged that Pakistan-backed terrorists were involved in the attack and initially claimed that weapons recovered from them bore Pakistani markings. However, this assertion was debunked by the Indian media itself, forcing the Indian Army to retract the claim.
Since then, frequent episodes of firing have been reported by the Pakistan military on the Line of Control. The escalation continued when India claimed it carried out "surgical strikes" across the control line on Sept 29, claims Pakistan rejected as baseless.
Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj on Tuesday (April 11) assured lawmakers that New Delhi would go "out of its way" to save Kulbhushan Jadhav from death row in Pakistan.
Calling Jadhav "a son of India", Swaraj issued a warning to Pakistan saying, "I would caution the Pakistani government to consider the consequences for our bilateral relationship if they proceed on this matter." "Our position is very clear, there is no evidence of wrongdoing by Kulbhushan Jadhav," she told the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Indian parliament.
"This is an act of premeditated murder," she said, referring to the death sentence handed to the Indian spy by a Field General Court Martial (FGCM).
Ruling Bhartia Junta Party (BJP) MP Subramanian Swamy, said Tuesday that "If Pakistan hangs Kulbhushan Jadhav, then India must recognize Balochistan as an independent country." He further said if Pakistan commits what he called another atrocity after this then its Sindh province should also be seceded. Swamy said that the government must warn Pakistan of serious consequences after it awarded death sentence to Jadhav.
Tellingly, Pakistan has long claimed that outside powers have tried to both meddle in Balochistan and use the border region to destabilize Pakistan as a whole. Jadhav's arrest and now conviction suggest an effort by the Pakistani security establishment to put a face on the long-alleged crimes against Pakistan.
After years of allegations, the broad contours of Indian involvement in Balochistan in particular, perhaps Karachi too, have become apparent, leading Pakistani newspaper Dawn said adding: The present right-wing government in India may be more frank in its willingness to pursue covert actions against Pakistan and may have ratcheted up those activities, but Indian interference in Balochistan has been a steady complaint of the Pakistani state for over a decade.
Jadhav was arrested on March 3, 2016, in Balochistan's Mashkel area for his involvement in espionage and sabotage activities against Pakistan, according to the Army Public Relations.
"His goal was to disrupt development of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), with Gwadar port as a special target," Army Public Relations Director Lt Gen Asim Bajwa had said, adding, "This is nothing short of state-sponsored terrorism... There can be no clearer evidence of Indian interference in Pakistan."
Jadhav was tried by Field General Court Martial (FGCM) under Section 59 of the Pakistan Army Act (PAA) and Section 3 of the official Secret Act of 1923. He was charged with spying for the Indian spy agency the Research & Analysis Wing (RAW) and being involved in subversive activities in the Gilgit-Baltistan region.