Mangalsutra , shoes hit ties

India and Pak lurch from Christmas spirit to strife

By Anita Joshua
  • Published 27.12.17

New Delhi: Christmas 2017 and Christmas 2015 have become a study in contrasts with emotive issues threatening to dictate India-Pakistan relations.

New Delhi on Tuesday accused Islamabad of violating the letter and spirit of an "understanding" under which the mother and wife of Kulbhushan Jadhav, the former naval officer sentenced to death on the charge of espionage and terrorism, were sent to Pakistan to meet him.

The formal statement of protest coincided with a disclosure that Indian commandos had crossed the LoC and killed four Pakistani soldiers in a "tit-for-tat" strike.

"Under the pretext of security precautions, the cultural and religious sensibilities of family members were disregarded," the foreign ministry said in a statement that detailed removal of the mangalsutra and bangles. (See chart)

The statement, issued after Jadhav's mother Avanti and wife Chetna met foreign minister Sushma Swaraj, took pains to point out that a pair of shoes was not returned to the wife and cautioned against "any mischievous intent". The suspicion is that Pakistan may accuse India of planting a bug in the shoe to record the meeting. 

Sources in Islamabad insisted Pakistan had essentially followed prison protocol and the change of clothes was insisted on to rule out bugs.

Since the meeting took place in the Pakistani foreign office, a shipping container was custom-fitted to replicate a meeting room with prison-like specifications, including the glass partition, through which the conversation took place over a telephone.

The statement does not object to the meeting being conducted through a glass pane, indicating that this was agreed to in advance.

Some sources in Delhi suggested the Indian statement was primarily aimed at the domestic audience. Having hard-sold a muscular form of national pride, the government did not want to toe a line of restraint and run the risk of the emotive details spilling out later.

Two years ago, "Christmas spirit" was the bilateral theme after Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a surprise visit to Lahore and hugged the then Pakistani Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif.