Pakistan to execute Indian 'spy': military

Pakistani officials claim Kulbhushan Sudhir Jadhav has confessed to spying for Indian intelligence services but India denies the allegations

Pakistan will execute an Indian who allegedly confessed to spying for Indian intelligence, the powerful military said Monday in a move that quickly raised tensions between the nuclear-armed rivals.

The man, named by the army as Kulbushan Sudhir Jadhav who also goes by the alias Hussein Mubarak Patel, was found guilty by a military court which was closed to the public and was sentenced to death.

"Today, (army chief) Gen Qamer Javed Bajwa has confirmed his death sentence," a military statement said, without stating when the execution would take place.

New Delhi slammed the decision. "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 foreign ministry said.

The Pakistani statement said Jadhav told the court he was tasked by India's Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) intelligence agency to "plan, coordinate, and organise espionage/sabotage activities aiming to destabilise and wage war against Pakistan" in the southwestern province of Balochistan and in the bustling port city of Karachi.

A Pakistani security official told AFP the court-martial had been kept secret even within the ranks of the military.

India has previously denied as "baseless" the claim that Jadhav, whom Islamabad says was arrested in Balochistan in March last year, was a spy.

Its foreign ministry said it had summoned the Pakistan High Commissioner (ambassador) Abdul Basit to protest at the conviction and sentence.

The ministry said there was no evidence against Jadhav, whom Indian media have described as a former naval officer, calling the proceedings against him "farcical".

It also dismissed the Pakistani military claim Jadhav had been provided with a "defending officer" as "clearly absurd", and said it had made 13 requests for consular access to him over the past year, all of which were denied.

Shortly after the arrest the Pakistani military released a video showing Jadhav confessing to working in Pakistan for years, though it was unclear if it had been filmed under duress.

- High tension -

The arch-rivals routinely accuse each other of sending spies into their countries and it is not uncommon for either to expel diplomats accused of espionage, particularly at times of high tension.

However death sentences have rarely been passed in such cases in recent years.

In 2013 an Indian sentenced to death for spying in Pakistan was killed in jail after being attacked by fellow inmates. Sarabjit Singh had been on death row for 16 years.

In 1999 another Indian, Sheikh Shamim, was hanged in a Pakistani jail almost ten years after he was caught "red-handed" near the border and arrested on charges of spying.

Previous cases have largely gone through civilian courts.

Analyst Hassan Askari said the decision to execute Jadhav would "further increase tension between the two countries".

"The military has given a severe punishment which is according to Pakistani law," he told AFP.

"But we will have to see if Pakistan can sustain the political and diplomatic fallout."

Relations have plummeted since a deadly attack on an Indian army base in the disputed region of Kashmir in September, which New Delhi blamed on Pakistan-based Islamist group Jaish-e-Mohammed.

There have since been repeated outbreaks of cross-border firing, with both sides reporting deaths and injuries.

Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since the end of British colonial rule in 1947. Both claim the Himalayan territory in full.

The neighbours have fought three wars since independence from Britain seven decades ago, two of them over Kashmir.

Balochistan, Pakistan's largest but least developed province, has been battling a years-long separatist insurgency which the army has repeatedly characterised as "terrorism" promoted by hostile states such as India.

Karachi, a city of 20 million and Pakistan's economic hub, is also frequently hit by religious, political and ethnic violence.