The ‘humanitarian’ gesture timed for Christmas has flopped. Pakistan has to face up to the fact that, in trying to play to multiple galleries, it has failed the basic test of decency. The window it opened for Kulbhushan Jadhav’s wife and mother, it has unceremoniously closed on itself. The former Indian Navy officer, Islamabad alleges, was into espionage.
In fact, it calls him nothing short of a ‘terrorist’ engaged in destabilising Pakistan and therefore deserving of the death sentence, which he has been duly awarded after a summary trial in a military court there. (Needless to say, no one would have been surprised by the verdict: even a garden variety tarot-reader could have predicted it.) Too many allegations to be carried on a single shoulder and altogether too pat to be believable—that’s what New Delhi has maintained from the beginning on Jadhav’s ‘culpability’.
In the International Court of Justice, India has refuted Pakistan’s claims while stating that Jadhav was a businessman who was abducted by Pakistani agents from Iran. Some of it has played out according to the choreography usual in such cases.
The case in the international court is on, and Pakistan has been forced to keep the death sentence in abeyance, while being churlish enough to deny several rounds of requests from India on granting consular access to Jadhav. Once the heat got too much, Islamabad instead allowed access to his family in a restricted environment.
But what it did thereafter is not just disappointing but could prove to be self-defeating. Mistreating two women by making them change their dress, their Indian attire and even footwear, then hectoring Jadhav’s mother not to speak in her native tongue, Islamabad played out a farce.
Even if all this was for the consumption of the domestic audience, as the Pakistan foreign office implied after the meeting, it would all have been in vain. This low dramatics is unlikely to win it the case or sympathy from the world. But India should not get into a tit-for-tat diplomacy and must handle the situation with dignity.