Indian media shouldn't dare Pakistan to kill Kulbhushan Jadhav
In this game of political one-upmanship, the provisional legal points scored at The Hague might suffer a setback if we aren't careful.
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May 18, 2017, would certainly go down in history as a day when India scored a true moral victory over its belligerent neighbour Pakistan. In the interim verdict pronounced by the International Court of Justice at The Hague on the issue of Kulbhushan Jadhav, it instructed Pakistan to take “all measures at its disposal" to ensure that he is "not executed pending a final judgement of the Court".
Jadhav – whom Pakistan alleges to be an “Indian spy” causing sabotage of national security and indulging in subversive activities in Balochistan and northwest Pakistan, but who, according to Indian authorities, is a retired naval officer who was conducting business in Iran – was sentenced to death by the Pakistani military court on April 10 this year.
Important.Here's why Kulbhushan Jadhav's trial by a Court Martial by the Pakistan Army is a sham: pic.twitter.com/aXgt3U3v2C— Navdeep Singh (@SinghNavdeep) April 10, 2017
The proceedings of the military court were kept secret, and many observers in India think that it was precisely because the evidence against Jadhav was so flimsy that he was tried in a military court and not a civilian court. Precisely why he was also denied consular access under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, 1963.
While the ICJ has ordered a provisional stay on the execution of Jadhav, which the Indian officials fear could be carried out clandestinely in the absence of a binding international jurisdictional order, the fact that The Hague has not pronounced a binding judgment on Pakistan providing consular access, and leaving it hanging at the mere observation that not giving consular access under Article 36 (a) of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations amounted to “denial of rights”, means that India still doesn’t know in what state Kulbhushan Jadhav is at present. Or, in fact, in which Pakistani jail is he currently languishing.
However, the unanimous decision by the 11-judge bench at The Hague, presided over by France’s Ronny Abraham, means that India at least has the “breathing space” to both push for consular access – the court observation supports India’s “plausible” claims – and to find legal remedy to eventually free Jadhav from the clutches of Pakistani military-industrial elite.
There lies the rub.
As expected, in the wake of the “moral victory” at The Hague, both Indian and Pakistani TV media have gone on an overdrive trying to hammer in the respective stance. In India’s case, phrases and hashtags like “India slaps Pakistan”, “India defeats Pakistan”, “Pakistan taught a lesson”, “India saves Jadhav”, have all been thrown around with casual abandon, as if the provisional order would have any bearing on the eventual decision of either the ICJ or the Pakistani military court which would decide the fate of Kulbhushan Jadhav.
In the case of Pakistan, already ultranationalists have decided that Islamabad should ignore the ICJ injunction and go ahead with Jadhav’s execution. Jingoists, foreign policy hawks, anti-India military-industrial elite, including retired justices, national security “experts”, journalists and former ministers have joined in the chorus saying that the “ICJ does not have jurisdiction”, despite the ICJ clearly spelling out that it, in fact, does have the same.
“It’s Pakistan’s mistake to have appeared there. They have shot themselves in the foot”. “The lawyers were ill-prepared.” Lines like these pretty much betray Pakistan’s sense of humiliation and betrayal at the hands of The Hague, the one which had in fact ruled in its favour in 1971. The situation in Pakistan is volatile enough to push the military elite risk international opprobrium and go ahead and execute Jadhav.
As former Pakistani ambassador to the United States and one of its most trenchant critics as well as political chroniclers, Husain Haqqani says, “Notwithstanding the final outcome of the ICJ proceedings, it is unlikely that Pakistan’s real goal in the Jadhav matter will be achieved. That goal is to convince the world that India is as much to blame, if not more, for terrorism on Pakistani soil as Pakistan is for terrorism in India and beyond.”
Haqqani hits the nail on its head when he says that the ICJ verdict has put a spanner in the wheel of machinations by the Pakistani military elite, who by fronting Jadhav as a captured Indian spy who’s been tried and found guilty as per the law of Pakistan, are trying to bolster the carefully calibrated narrative of India fuelling tensions in Pakistan’s northwest and Balochistan areas.
In fact, senior journalist Praveen Swami points out that the mainstream and social media wing of the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI-M) has been busy orchestrating a Twitter frenzy over Jadhav and the ICJ verdict, positing Pakistan as the wronged party. By doing this, the military wing of Pakistan wants to equate the presence and capture of Jadhav as equivalent to its own nurturing of terror camps in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and other parts of Pakistan, engineering, funding cross-border terrorism on a routine basis and carrying on the policy of “bleeding India by a thousand cuts” to maintain its ideological supremacy over Pakistan’s much bruised political imaginary.
Given that the Kulbhushan Jadhav case has snowballed into a power tussle between India and Pakistan, each trying to further its own narrative of being the wronged party, each fearing that they could lose the narrative control of the Kashmir crisis, and affiliated issues such as international terrorism, nuclear weapons, among others, the ICJ verdict has only managed to intensify the tension to unprecedented heights.
While New Delhi has tasted success with third party/multilateral mediation, something it has been wont to do for over four decades, Islamabad feels cornered and might spring to impulsive action against Jadhav to maintain its domestic sway on the issues of at stake. By “exposing” India as another perpetrator of clandestine cross-border subversive activities that compromise Pakistan’s national security, Islamabad wants a moral equivalence with New Delhi, its more statesmanly older cousin in the global world order.
Coming back to the original point, how does the Indian TV media help Jadhav’s case by constantly humiliating Pakistan in ever more unacceptable language, inviting Pakistani spokespersons to speak on the panels and insult them no end, offered as public spectacle to shore up petty TRPs? In fact, both Indian and Pakistani TV media would do their respective legal case no favours by constantly vitiating the atmosphere, exactly as the respective battery of lawyers present their case at the ICJ.
However, needless to say that the adverse effect of Indian TV going ballistic is far more, because a humiliated Pakistan might use the ruse of India’s maniacal laughter to prove its own twisted point, and hang Jadhav risking global condemnation. It could still expect China to stand by its side if it does that. And since America and Russia are way too embroiled in their own tangled messes over the presidential scandals involving Trump-Putin bonhomie, it could very well be said that both Washington and Moscow wouldn’t spring to any tangible action other issuing strong condemnation of Islamabad’s thoughtlessness.
But that’s precisely what the military-industrial elite in Pakistan aim to achieve. With China at its side, the temptation to ignore the ICJ interim ruling is too strong for Pakistan, something India simply cannot risk if it wants to save Jadhav from the gallows and also not leave him in a Pakistani jail to rot forever.
Since the victory, no matter how provisional, has been achieved by strong intellectual and legal arguments, it can be easily diluted by the dim-witted assaults on sanity by India’s jingoistic TV media. If Jadhav is lost to Pakistan’s sense of defeat, then what victory would India have, if at all?