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August 2019 Edition of Power Politics is updated.          August 2019 Edition of Power Politics is updated.
Issue:June' 2019


An opportunity for Pak to mend its fences

Syed Nooruzzaman

A view of the International Court of Justice during the Kulbhushan
Jadhav's verdict in the Hague.

Kulbhushan Sudhir Jadhav At last, realisation has dawned on Pakistan that it is better to quietly accept the ruling of the Viennabased International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the conviction and sentencing to death of Indian national Kulbhushan Sudhir Jadhav on trumped-up charges of spying and indulging in terrorism by a military court than looking for an excuse to delay it. The Pakistan government’s decision to grant consular access to the retired Indian Navy officer was, therefore, unavoidable.
According to a statement issued by the Pakistan Foreign Ministry, “Pursuant to the decision of the ICJ, Commander Kulbhushan Jadhav has been informed of his rights under Article 36, Paragraph 1(b), of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations…. As a responsible state, Pakistan will grant consular access to Commander Kulbhushan Jadhav according to Pakistani laws, for which modalities are being worked out.”

Advocate Harish Salve leading the Indian delegation at the
International Court of Justice
A 16-member ICJ bench headed by Justice Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf had on July 17 ruled in its 42-page order by 15- 1 votes that Pakistan must undertake an “effective review and reconsideration” of the sentencing of Jadhav and also grant consular access to him. The ICJ bench held that “a continued stay of execution constitutes an indispensable condition for the effective review” of the sentence pronounced by a Pakistani military court.
Though the ICJ did not accept India’s plea for annulment of the military court’s verdict, Kulbhushan’s release from a Pakistani jail and his safe passage to India, the world court indirectly made it clear that the Indian national cannot be executed and, therefore, his execution must be put on hold. The charges of spying and involvement in terrorism framed against him carry no meaning as he is a victim of the India-Pakistan tensions which refuse to disappear mainly because of the control of the levers of power in Islamabad by the powerful military establishment, which has its own interests to protect.

Now Pakistan will have to undertake a review of the conviction of the Indian national as directed by the ICJ. Despite its claim of a victory at the ICJ, Pakistan has suffered major humiliation with the world court ruling that Islamabad violated the international law in handling the Kulbhushan case.

The Pakistani authorities have been claiming that Kulbhushan was "arrested" on charges of spying and involvement in terrorism on March 3, 2016, in Balochistan as a serving officer of the Indian Navy and the Pakistan Foreign Secretary informed the Indian High Commissioner in Islamabad about the development on March 25, 2016.

But the truth, as India has been asserting, is that he had taken premature retirement from the Navy and was abducted from Iran by Pakistan’s intelligence agencies. Kulbhushan was sentenced to death by Pakistan’s Field General Court Martial on April 10, 2017, without granting him consular access to defend himself as required under the international law. That is one of the reasons why his conviction was found to be questionable.

Now Pakistan will have to undertake a review of the conviction of the Indian national as directed by the ICJ. Despite its claim of a victory at the ICJ, Pakistan has suffered major humiliation with the world court ruling that Islamabad violated the international law in handling the Kulbhushan case.

Since it is clear that after the significant ICJ ruling the retired Indian Navy officer’s case cannot be dealt with in accordance with the Pakistani military court’s verdict, it is time for Islamabad to find a way to release Kulbhushan from its captivity which would go a long way to lessen the bitterness between the two South Asian nations. This will also be reflecting the spirit of the world court’s judgement.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan would be displaying statesmanship if he acts on these lines. A positive approach to deal with the case soon after the India-Pakistan agreement on the Kartarpur Sahib corridor idea will send across the region and beyond the message that the ruling establishments in the two nations are ready to abandon the path of confrontation to pave the way for building bridges of goodwill and understanding with a view to solely focusing on peace and progress.

Actually, the time has come to use every available opportunity to promote the idea of a cooperative drive to banish poverty from every corner of South Asia, home to the largest number of the world’s multidimensionally poor between 2010 and 2017.

The rulers on both sides must understand that poverty remains the biggest enemy of the people and deserves a multi-pronged onslaught, keeping aside all the other priorities. Once the ruling classes get focused on doing all they can to eliminate the scourge, of poverty, destructive forces like terrorists will fail to find fresh recruits for their anti-peace designs.

However, any anti-poverty drive is bound to get derailed if terrorism and extremism are allowed to exist on any pretext. Here, again, Pakistan, known as the epicentre of terrorism, has a greater responsibility to ensure that these anti-peace elements are eliminated from the region root and branch. Islamabad claims that it has no love lost for extremists, but the truth remains that whenever peace talks between India and Pakistan were about to produce the desired results, Pakistan-based terrorists caused death and destruction on a target of their choosing in India.

This is the hard reality and the whole world knows it full well. It is not without reason that the international community, through the Financial Action Task Force, has placed Pakistan on its “grey list” with a view to preventing the financing of the terrorist outfits operating from the territories under its control.