An Indian naval officer has been convicted of espionage and sabotage by Pakistan and sentenced to death. The sentence could possibly escalate tensions between the two feuding countries.
The sentence was handed down more than a year after Indian naval officer Kulbhushan Jadhav was arrested in Baluchistan province, the site of an ongoing conflict between Pakistani security forces and militant separatists.
In a statement on Monday, the military court said Jadhav had admitted to being tasked by Indian intelligence with carrying out espionage activities in Baluchistan meant "to destabilize and wage war against Pakistan." The military also released a video showing Jadhav admitting to the crime, though it wasn't clear if he had been forced to make the confession under duress.
The powerful army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa signed off on the sentence. The court did not announce when the execution would take place.
Indian officials reacted to the decision with anger. "If this sentence against an Indian citizen, awarded without observing basic norms of law and justice, is carried out, the government and people of India will regard it as a case of premeditated murder," the country's foreign ministry said in a statement.
New Delhi had previously described the accusations leveled against Jadhav as "baseless." The Indian foreign ministry said it had summoned Pakistan's top envoy to protest the conviction and sentence.
Feuding between the two South Asian neighbors is common, but such a harsh sentence for a defendant convicted of espionage is rare. Apart from a couple of notable cases in the past two decades, such cases have usually gone through civilian courts
The decision to put him to death could further raise tensions between the two countries, which has already seen its relations worsen in recent months thanks to deadly clashes in the contested region of Kashmir.
Pakistan accuses India of aiding the separatist movement in Baluchistan, which India has denied. Meanwhile, India says Pakistan is aiding the separatists in Kashmir, India's only Muslim-majority state.
Last September, gunmen killed 19 Indian soldiers in Kashmir, igniting tensions and leading to further clashes. On Sunday, at least eight people were killed and 200 injured after Indian forces opened fire on protestors during a by-election for a parliamentary seat in Kashmir.
blc/kms (epd, Reuters, AP)