Millennium Post

Sweet verdict, bittersweet emotion

The International Court of Justice's order paved way for consular access and review of the death sentence awarded to retired Navy Commander Kulbhushan Jadhav by a Pakistani military court on charges of espionage and terrorism levelled by Pakistan. Since April of 2017 when Jadhav was awarded the capital punishment, a long-drawn legal battle was initiated between India and Pakistan at the ICJ with India bringing to picture gross violation of Vienna Convention's Article 36 on Consular Relations. Article 36 provides that 'consular officers shall have the right to visit a national of their state in prison, custody or detention, and to arrange for his legal representation. India contended for an annulment of the bizarre death sentence awarded to Jadhav as well as his release and repatriation to India. Between March 2016–when he was captured–to March 2017, Pakistan denied as many as 13 requests from India for consular access to Jadhav. ICJ in May of 2017 passed a provisional measure to ensure a stay on Jadhav's execution following the Court's final order. When the final judgement did arrive after two years, it fell majorly in India's favour with ICJ directing Pakistan to review its order and provide Jadhav with immediate consular access. Though Pakistan, who was found guilty in violation of the Vienna Convention, took the International Court's ruling as a lukewarm response, with its domestic media citing how ICJ did not accept India's plea for Jadhav's acquittal. Nevertheless, ICJ's ruling remained a massive diplomatic and legal victory for India who received the judgement in an overwhelming 15-1 majority of judges at Hague–with only Judge Jillani of Pakistan being the one who dissented. India has relentlessly pursued Jadhav's illegal apprehension and consequential death sentence based on a coerced confession extracted in captivity. Moving to ICJ was a good move for India since the deteriorated relations between India and Pakistan would never have set the tone for a bilateral route to Jadhav's release and repatriation. Pakistan's PM Imran Khan asserted appreciation for ICJ decision to not acquit and return Jadhav to India and cited how Pakistan will proceed as per the law in a tweet following the judgement by ICJ. It does seem that Pakistan has overcome the loss it had to face in the International Court by replacing it with what it has up its sleeve–Jadhav's custody. Now the main agenda hereafter largely shifts between India and Pakistan and how Pakistan proceeds with the Jadhav matter. India will still be on the lookout to affirm Jadhav's release while Pakistan, if not adamant on executing Jadhav, would want India to submit to its allegations of Jadhav being the spy that it has contended. It need not be reiterated that India has constantly rubbished such claims and still contends that Jadhav–who was legally residing in Iran after retiring from the Navy–was abducted and falsely tried after being coerced into providing a statement in favour of Pakistan's allegations. It also has to be duly noted that it was the gross inconsistency on display by Pakistan that actually led to the cementing of India's case at The Hague resulting in a favourable outcome. Had Pakistan not violated the Vienna Convention, matters would have been different and maybe unspeakable. But right now, India has the upper hand which has to be extended into the cloud of uncertainty to somehow get Jadhav back. The two years and two-month-long proceeding landing in India's favour is a sign of correct steps taken by India in bringing Jadhav back. Though India still has a long way to traverse in hopes of getting its citizen back, Pakistan has been rewarded a chance to place Jadhav on a retrial. It will require diplomatic excellence to get Jadhav back for that is the only way his homecoming can be celebrated amidst a reinvigorated Pakistani-effort to obstruct the same. It may have been hailed as a good judgement but it only induces a bittersweet feeling for an Indian is not yet home!

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