Foreign policy traditionally was a point of convergence in India’s noisy democracy. It no longer is. We bicker on almost everything under the sun from the situation along the LAC to how bilateral relations with neighbours have generally dipped under the Modi government’s watch. Why, knives have been out in recent weeks against the foreign minister from within the ruling party. Yet, if there is an island of congruence, it is on retired Indian Navy officer Kulbhushan Jadhav.
Arrested by Pakistan on charges of spying and terror in late 2016 and awarded capital punishment by a kangaroo military court months later in a closed trial, there was a sense of relief last year after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) upbraided Islamabad for its flagrant violation of international law on consular support. From delayed information on his arrest to the Indian mission to the denial of consular access, the ICJ faulted Pakistan on multiple counts and ordered immediate redressal, including a fresh and open trial as also consular support.
Since jungle law prevails in Pakistan’s military courts and their verdicts couldn’t be contested in civilian courts, Jadhav had in 2017 filed a mercy petition. After sitting on the ICJ order for months, Islamabad promulgated an ordinance in May allowing military court verdicts to be challenged in high courts. But last week, Pakistan claimed Jadhav was unwilling to file an appeal before the Islamabad high court and preferred pursuing his pending mercy petition instead.
It did a diplomatic stunt saying India or Jadhav’s relatives could still approach the HC on his behalf before the ordinance window shuts on July 19. However, the Indian foreign office promptly called out the neighbour for coercing Jadhav to forego his rights, adding it was exploring all legal options.
The opposition, too, was on the same page. As the foreign office pointed out, it is as clear as daylight that Pakistan is creating a mirage of compliance with the ICJ verdict. It hasn’t yet shared any relevant document with India, including the first information report, evidence and the military court’s order. Apart from one heavily curtailed consular meet, India is yet to get unimpeded access to him. Pakistan may need another international rebuke to yield.