ISLAMABAD // A Pakistani military court sentenced an Indian accused of espionage to death on Monday, potentially racheting up tension between the two countries.
Kulbushan Sudhir Jadhav was arrested on March 3 in the turbulent province of Balochistan, which has seen a long-running conflict between Pakistani security forces and a militant separatist movement.
Any move to execute Jadhav would be “premeditated murder”, New Delhi warned Islamabad on Monday, while the Indian foreign ministry summoned Pakistan’s ambassador Abdul Basit to protest.
The Pakistani military said Jadhav had confessed to being tasked by India’s intelligence service with planning, coordinating and organising espionage and sabotage activities in Balochistan “aiming to destabilise and wage war against Pakistan”.
The sentence was passed by a field general court martial and confirmed by the powerful army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa. The military did not announce any date for the execution.
There was no immediate comment from the Indian government.
Pakistan accuses India of helping the separatist movement in Balochistan, a charge denied by India. In its turn, the government in New Delhi says Pakistan aids separatist fighters in Kashmir, part of India’s only Muslim-majority state, which Pakistan also claims.
Last September, tension between the neighbours escalated after gunmen killed 19 Indian soldiers at an army camp in Kashmir, an attack India blamed on Pakistan-based militants.
Pakistan denies backing militants, saying it only offers political support to the Muslim people of Indian-controlled Kashmir.
The Indian army said it had killed four suspected rebels in Kashmir on Sunday night.
Army spokesman Col Rajesh Kalia said a gunbattle erupted after the four militants crossed from Pakistani side of the Himalayan territory into the Indian-held portion of Kashmir in Keran sector.
Meanwhile, businesses and schools shut in Kashmir stayed shut in response to a separatists’ call for a protest after the killing of eight civilians by government forces during a weekend by-election.
Widespread protests and clashes on Sunday marred a by-election for a vacant seat in India’s parliament as thousands of people attacked polling stations.
Government forces fired on rock-throwing protesters, killing eight people and wounding at least 100. Officials said about 100 police and paramilitary soldiers were also injured in the clashes.
* Reuters, Associated Press and Agence France-Presse