[The Pakistani military said Monday Mr. Yadan was a “spy” who “was tried through Field General Court-Martial,” referring to a court-martial trial of heinous crimes, dedicated to cases involving foreign agents and spies.]
By Salman Masood and Hari Kumar
An image on a screen at a news conference held by the Pakistani army in 2016
regarding the Indian naval officer Kulbhushan Jadhav, who was sentenced
to death on Monday. Credit Anjum Naveed/Associated Press
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — An Indian naval officer arrested last year and charged with espionage and sabotage was sentenced to death Monday, the Pakistani military said, a decision that is likely to further strain relations between the two nations.
The condemned naval officer, Kulbhushan Jadhav, was arrested in March 2016 in Baluchistan, the restive province in Southwest Pakistan, where a separatist insurgency has simmered for decades. Pakistani military officials described the capture of Mr. Jadhav as a major counterintelligence victory. He was accused of running a clandestine terror network within the province and of participating in various activities meant to destabilize the country.
The Indian ministry of external affairs reacted sharply to the Pakistani announcement, issuing a protest to Pakistan’s high commissioner in New Delhi, which said if the sentence were carried out, “the government and people of India will regard it as a case of premeditated murder.”
The Pakistani military said Monday Mr. Yadan was a “spy” who “was tried through Field General Court-Martial,” referring to a court-martial trial of heinous crimes, dedicated to cases involving foreign agents and spies.
The Pakistani military also asserted that Mr. Jadhav confessed before a magistrate that he was assigned by India’s spy agency, the Research and Analysis Wing, or RAW, “to plan and organize espionage and sabotage activities” in Baluchistan Province and Karachi, the southern port city that is the country’s commercial hub.
Soon after Mr. Jadhav’s arrest in March 2016, the Pakistani military had released a video in which Mr. Jadhav confessed to espionage. Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, the army chief, confirmed the death sentence on Monday, the military said.
India disputes Pakistan’s accusations, which has often been the case in the testy relations between the two estranged, nuclear-armed neighbors. India gave a starkly different version of Mr. Jadhav’s arrest and profession.
Indian officials accused Pakistan of kidnapping Mr. Jadhav, whom they described as a former Navy officer, and said that repeated efforts for access to Mr. Jadhav were denied. Mr. Jadhav is also known to spell his surname Yadav and, according to Pakistani officials, he used the alias Hussain Mubarak Patel.
India’s foreign ministry said that the proceedings that led to the sentence against Mr. Jadhav “were farcical in the absence of any credible evidence against him” and added that the Indian High Commission, its diplomatic mission in Pakistan, was not even informed that Mr. Jadhav was being brought to trial.
A. S. Dulat, a former Indian spy chief, said in an interview that the news of the death sentence came as a surprise and was a further setback in relations between the two neighbors. “This is unbelievable kind of thing, shocking. This comes out of blue without any knowledge of trial, or evidence of the case and suddenly you hear that man is going to be hanged,” Mr. Dulat said by phone.
Mr. Dulat said “spies are caught everywhere all the time.” “You ask for a favor. Somebody returns a favor. That’s how it is. You don’t hang people. In normal circumstances, you don’t hang the people like this,” he said.
Farooq Hameed Khan, a retired Pakistani brigadier and defense analyst based in Lahore, Pakistan, said Mr. Jadhav was no ordinary catch for Pakistan. “He was not just a spy. Indian spy rings have been busted in the past. Jadhav is a serving Indian navy officer, who was working for RAW and involved in terror activities. He is a murderer. He is a terrorist.”
“The death sentence is a big development and sends a very strong message to India that its attempts to sow terror inside Pakistan will not be tolerated,” Mr. Khan said.
“It only worsens the prospects of India-Pakistan dialogue. I don’t see any government in India going on bended knees to have a dialogue,” said G. Parthasarathy, a former Indian diplomat.
Mr. Khan said that in the wake of the death sentence, a halt to the peace dialogue between the two countries was a foregone conclusion.
“India will now exert political, diplomatic and even military pressure to stop the execution. I expect things will heat up on the Line of Control and Working Boundary,” he said referring to the heavily militarized border along Kashmir, the disputed Himalayan region that is claimed by both countries.
Hari Kumar reported from New Delhi.