ISLAMABAD (AP) — The wife and mother of an imprisoned Indian naval officer facing the death penalty in Pakistan for espionage and sabotage were allowed to meet with him on Monday in what the Foreign Ministry said was a "humanitarian gesture."
It was the first meeting between Kulbhushan Jadhav and his family since he was arrested in March 2016 after entering the country from Iran. He was able to speak with his wife and mother at the ministry through a glass partition with microphones.
The two women looked visibly worried and stressed before and after meeting Jadhav, and later returned to India by plane.
Pakistan and India are bitter regional rivals that have fought three wars since gaining independence from Britain in 1947. The nuclear-armed countries each claim the Himalayan territory of Kashmir, and their forces regularly exchange fire there despite a 2003 cease-fire.
A Pakistani military tribunal found Jadhav guilty of espionage and sabotage and sentenced him to death, but India obtained an order from the International Court of Justice to halt the execution.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Faisal said Pakistan allowed the meeting as a "humanitarian gesture" following a request from India. He said the visit was granted in accordance with Islamic customs despite Jadhav's involvement in "acts of terrorism."
"The visit was allowed in line with Islamic practices and teachings. Islam is the religion of peace and advocates mercy. It is a gesture of good faith and compassion," he said. "Jadhav's actions at Indian behest have deprived many mothers of their sons and daughters. Pakistan upholds the Islamic morals and values which teach mercy, grace and compassion for all," he said.
Faisal said Pakistan had hoped to make the family members available to media but that India objected, insisting journalists be barred from speaking to them. Their names have not been made public.
He said the meeting was originally scheduled to last half an hour but was extended by another 10 minutes.
"This is not their last meeting with him," he said, indicating that Jadhav would not be executed in the near future. He said the case was still pending before the International Court of Justice, and that Jadhav had requested clemency from Pakistan's army chief, Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa. If Bajwa declines, he could then seek a pardon from Pakistan's president.
Faisal refused to disclose what was discussed by Jadhav with his family, but said that Jadhav was tasked by Indian intelligence "to plan, coordinate and organize espionage, terrorism and sabotage aiming to destabilize and wage war against Pakistan." Faisal said Jadhav was the "face of Indian terrorism, especially in Pakistan."
He said Jadhav was carrying a fake passport when he was captured.
In his petition to the army, Jadhav wrote that he was "ashamed" over his involvement in terrorism inside Pakistan.
He also confessed to working for India's spy agency, saying he was tasked with orchestrating acts of terrorism in Pakistan.
Jadhav gave details of his meetings with his contacts in Pakistan and exposed the network which he was handling, according to his confessional statement, obtained by The Associated Press. It was not clear whether the confession was extracted under duress, but in a video statement he Jadhav said "I have been treated with dignity and honor and very professional manner by the Pakistani authorities."
India and Pakistan routinely accuse each other of harboring terrorists.