Will India’s Raking up of the Shoes Episode Harm Jadhav’s Case?
Jadhav’s wife Chetna was asked to take off her shoes before her meeting with him on 26 December in Islamabad.
India lodged a protest at the diplomatic levels with Pakistan hours after Chetna Jadhav, wife of alleged Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav, who is on death row in a Pakistani jail, was forced to take off her shoes minutes before her meeting with Jadhav on 26 December.
Since then India has sent a note verbale to the Pakistani authorities and has sent several reminders through diplomatic channels for return of the shoes. But the Pakistani side has maintained a stoic sentence to the Indian protests and requests.
And the chilling implication of no response in diplomatic interactions means “No”!
The Indian note verbale reminded the Pakistani side to restore the footwear to its original wearer without any delay but the Pakistani remained unswayed and unresponsive.
Pak’s Shoe Diplomacy
The Indian fears came true as the Pakistani media splashed stories insinuating that the footwear was bugged. Even at the time of writing this, the Indian diplomats were engaged with their Pakistani counterparts asking them to hand over Chetna’s shoes to their rightful owner. But this is never going to happen.
After the Indian diplomats learnt about the confiscation of the shoes, the intelligence agencies’ inputs reached the desk of National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, who, given his long and distinguished record of dealing with Pakistan, quickly advised the Ministry of External Affairs to come up with a statement immediately and raise the issue of the confiscated shoes.
The NSA’s advice was to go public about this by issuing a statement and thus pre-empt the Pakistanis from relaying a cooked up story to the world that the shoes were fitted with some kind of surveillance or espionage devices.
That’s why the MEA came up with a hard-hitting statement specifically mentioning the shoes episode.
The MEA statement was more of a pre-emptive strike rather than taking on Pakistan which has in any case come up with a good gesture of facilitating a meeting of Jadhav with his wife and mother, albeit with a glass partition in between.
Through this statement, the MEA sought to file a caveat of sorts that Chetna Jadhav’s shoes could be paraded as bugged and fitted with a snooping or an espionage device. The MEA's fears were not unfounded as shortly after Pakistani media published/broadcast the concocted stories.
A source, well qualified to speak on these situations and developments, put things in perspective with the following pointers:
- Even if the Indians were downright stupid enough to send Chetna Jadhav wearing shoes fitted with some kind of snooping device, what kind of intelligence India would have come up with under the current extenuating circumstances?
- An Indian prying and peeping operation, even if presuming that Chetna Jadhav was brainwashed by the Indian authorities to be on an espionage mission rather than meeting her husband which could be her very last chance, is the last priority for the family of a death-row convict.
- Even if assuming that India were to use this meeting as an espionage opportunity, Chetna Jadhav wouldn’t have got any substantive information given the fact that she was meeting her husband in a controlled atmosphere!
- It’s like believing that the Pakistanis would have been guilty of rank stupidity and thinking of pulling off some kind of information when an ISI team had arrived in India early last year to “investigate” the Pathankot terror attacks. The Pakistanis wouldn’t have played with fire by sending its spies to Pathankot in full spy gear knowing full well that the Indian authorities wouldn’t be leaving any stone unturned in searching the ISI team before allowing it access to the Pathankot base.
It’s for this reason that the Clause 4 of the MEA statement makes a clear and unambiguous reference to Chetna Jadhav’s shoes which were seized by the Pakistanis and never returned. Incidentally, Jadhav’s mother’s shoes were not taken off. Sample the MEA response:
For some inexplicable reason, despite her repeated requests, the shoes of the wife of Shri Jadhav were not returned to her after the meeting. We would caution against any mischievous intent in this regard.
While Chetna Jadhav’s shoes episode must be seen as a pre-emptive move by India, a fair question would be whether by coming up with such a strongly-worded statement by the MEA, hasn’t India jeopardised Jadhav’s fate? This may well be so!
(Rajeev Sharma is a strategic analyst and columnist who tweets @Kishkindha. The views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
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