Two nations and a black hole

For both Pakistan and India, Kulbhushan Jadhav has become a pawn in a high-stakes game

Written by Nirupama Subramanian | Published: December 28, 2017 12:00 am
Kulbhushan jadhav, Pakistan, India, Islamabad, Kulbhushan Jadhav family, Indian spy, Terrorism, kulbhushan jadhav pakistan, kulbhushan jadhav india, ISI, spy agency, Jadhav’s day out with his family was Pakistan’s chance to offset the lack of credibility on his trial, which was held secretly in a military court — and it was always going to use it.

In my memory, the Pakistan Foreign Office in Islamabad has a bright foyer lit with a grand chandelier, and tea and biscuits were always laid out outside the weekly briefing room. There was the office of the minister upstairs, at that time Khurshid Kasuri, and a warren of other offices. As the first images of Kulbhushan Jadhav’s meeting with his mother Avanti and wife Chetankul came up on Twitter, it was hard to reconcile that memory with this bunker-type space with glass partition upon partition, where the conversation was conducted over intercom, and a clock ticked away ominously.

The theatre should not have come as a surprise. There is shock and outrage in India, and even some among well-meaning people in Pakistan, that the meeting took place under circumstances arranged to rob it of any meaning for the three main actors. But right from the time that Pakistan agreed to allow Jadhav to meet his wife, and then added on his mother, it should have been clear that this was going to be milked for what it was worth. Because this is the sad truth about India-Pakistan relations.

Individuals and their emotions do not count. They are mere pawns in the high-stakes game that both sides know how to play well. That is why they issue visas at will, and then, at will, stop issuing visas. This is why they arrest each other’s nationals and keep them in jails for years after they finish their sentences, releasing them only to make a political or diplomatic statement at a time of their choosing. This is why there can be cruelty to Sarbajit, and “humanitarianism” for Jadhav. This is why a mother and a wife became the latest pawns in this game on December 25.

A question is doing the rounds: Would India have behaved any differently had the boot been on the other foot? It is nice to think that it would have, but there is no guarantee, and those who know better about these things say the treatment might have been the same, perhaps minus the American-style partitions. As for Indian TV channels, it is not difficult to imagine them throwing the same questions. Come to think of it, in lending its voice to the outrage and accusing Pakistan of shortchanging the two women and subjecting them to harassment, New Delhi is also using them to further its agenda against Pakistan. Thus are constituencies of India-Pakistan created. That is the only thing for which people are required in this game — to keep the two locked in permanent hostility.

Day after ‘mischief’ caution, Pakistan sends Kulbhushan Jadhav wife’s shoes for forensics test

Jadhav’s day out with his family was Pakistan’s chance to offset the lack of credibility on his trial, which was held secretly in a military court — and it was always going to use it. According to a March 2017 report in Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper, since the courts came into existence in 2015, two months after the attack on the Army school in Peshawar, 274 people were convicted. Of these, 161 had been sentenced to death, 12 had been executed and 113 had been given life terms. These are not open trials, and there is no information on what specific charges are laid against a person until the case is decided and the person convicted. An article in the online news site, Diplomat, says 144 of the convicted had “confessed”, a high and improbable rate of confessions.

The choice of December 25, celebrated the world over as a day of peace and compassion, and in Pakistan also as the birth anniversary of founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah, was carefully chosen for the symbolism. But Pakistan’s insistence at every step that this was “a purely humanitarian” gesture begged the question if that was intended to convey a grand gesture or a narrow one. It was clearly both, aimed at two kinds of audiences — internationally, to signal that Pakistan had nothing to hide; and at home, to convey that this was no legal concession, but a gesture by a responsible state going out of its way to make a mother and son and wife happy, even if they were from the enemy country. And indeed, despite all its constraints, the meeting must have been important for the two Jadhav women; the alternative, to have never had that opportunity, is terrible to contemplate even after we know how the meeting went.

Pakistan’s decision to allow the meeting to take place gave the country a feel good moment about itself, to say, “Look, we are nice even to your spies”. For this is what Pakistanis, even those who value and stand up and speak for peace and friendship with India, believe — Jadhav was an Indian spy. And certainly, there are unexplained questions — about Jadhav’s second passport, the false name, the Muslim identity — which do not sit well with the Indian explanation that he was a trader in Iran.

In March 2016, when he was arrested and the military put out a confessional video, commentators in Pakistan, including anti-establishment voices, said Pakistan has laid its hands on “its own Ajmal Kasab”, with the crucial difference that Pakistan could shrug off the real Ajmal Kasab as a non-state actor, but Jadhav’s links with the Indian Navy made him a “state actor”.

All countries send out spies, and neither India nor Pakistan are wallflowers in this department. Undercover operatives are routinely arrested. Some are expendable or deniable and must fend for themselves if caught; for some, there have been secret talks between the intelligence agencies of the two countries and releases, perhaps even exchanges. And there are reports to suggest India has a Pakistani in its custody who could be exchanged for Jadhav in this way. But all that was ruled out the minute he became public goods, fought over by two hyper-national countries.

The case before the International Court of Justice may yet win consular access to Jadhav. But as the experience with Sarabjit showed, that may not help bring Jadhav back home. That only political goodwill can do. That would mean negotiations and a concerted effort at normalising relations. Both India and Pakistan have shown that they lack the will and the capacity for this. But let’s not forget too that states are but a reflection of the people who live in them. Fingers and toes crossed for Jadhav and his family and all others unlucky enough to get caught in the black hole called India-Pakistan relations.

nirupama.subramanian@expressindia.com

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  1. Qamar Saleem
    Dec 31, 2017 at 2:28 pm
    Come on guys Indian MEA talking everything except the Passport thing, i mean Pakistan's main proof is that passport recovered from yadav, bearing a muslim name, Indian MEA should deny/dispute that passport, Pak foreign office sent a Letter of interest to MEA India with the copy of that passport attached, this passport has been used 17 times by yadav for travel, these r very direct questions/accusations, yesterday Pak FO spokesperson again asked about that passport, why Indian authorities are shying away from that passport, they talk everything but not challenge the veracity of that passport, neither in ICJ nor anywhere else like UNO, and why still India hasn't lodged any formal complaint with Iran about the so called kidnapping of one of its citizens from Iranian soil? it would had made Indian case even more strong, why India lodged case in ICJ just for consular access? why Indian govt is not pleading his innocence in ICJ? i mean Indians should ask these basic questions from their govt
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    1. Soemeer Prahladsingh
      Dec 29, 2017 at 10:56 pm
      It will not amaze me if the next time a visiter by the Pakistani officers is first raped before the meeting can take place. These so-called allah dogs have no respect for other culture values. If Mohammed himself has been a pedophile, what do you expect from his followers? I wonder how long, 1000 years of mughuls and 190 years of british, this kind of humiliations can and want to tolerate Hindus to keep good peace. Meanwhile, the Hindus MIND are totally destroyed. Who will stand up ???
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      1. Ramesh Nittoor
        Dec 29, 2017 at 8:45 pm
        For both Pakistan and India, Kulbhushan Jadhav has become a pawn in a high-stakes game -- . It is difficult to be critical of national security policy in Indian media. Press freedom index in India is abysmal. India is ranked 136 in the World Press Freedom Index, three points down from last year. This article is refreshingly different though. Pakistani folks working behind Jadhav episode are of two kinds, Peaceniks and Warmongers. Peaceniks must first save their own skin in Pakistan, whereas Warmongers can talk with impunity. This creates a skewed situation. Indian official and media response ought to discern the two aspects and respond in a differentiated, balanced and composite manner, but both official and media responses, only seek to outwit Warmongers. There is no reaching out for interpreting cues from peaceniks. Indian and even Pakistani media are of pretty high standard, but improving Indian ranking in WPF index may be a prerequisite to prepare public opinion for peace.
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        1. Ramesh Nittoor
          Dec 29, 2017 at 8:53 pm
          Indian Express is indeed a Journalism of Courage, one of the few exceptions.
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          1. Ramesh Nittoor
            Dec 29, 2017 at 10:16 pm
            Good governance in a democracy begins with press freedom, not with easy of doing business. Goddess Saraswati ought to precede Goddess Lakshmi. As long as Hindutva mindset overrides Bharatiyata world view, this elemental change in priority is not going to happen. उदार भावना is not possible within this government unless Bharatiyata world view prevail and until then the transformation PM Modi earnestly seeks is clearly ruled out.
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            1. Ramesh Nittoor
              Dec 29, 2017 at 10:17 pm
              Good governance in a democracy begins with press freedom, not with ease of doing business.
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              1. Ramesh Nittoor
                Dec 29, 2017 at 10:39 pm
                Unless BJP is able to figure out how to win elections without Hindutva, or until Hindutva becomes a political liability, there is no way peace in subcontinent can prevail. Pakistan is too weak a country to shape Indian destiny. India can have a positive influence on Pakistan, if it cares. This Vajpayee premise about caring for Pakistan led to Lahore Yatra but only brought Kargil then. However, unlike then, the deep state of US is a strategic partner of India and India by acquiring characteristics of developed democracies has a better chance of becoming strong enough to pull the Pakistani chestnuts out of fire. Bharatiyata ethos can make India stronger and better while tough posturing of Hindutva actually weakens India.
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                1. Ramesh Nittoor
                  Dec 29, 2017 at 10:46 pm
                  Sabka Saath ethos of PM Modi is a sound one, it does not reject nor demonize Hindutva folks. It encourages Hindutva folks to rethink and explore options ahead. The risk of second Kargil-like faltering is too expensive for India to bear, and yet a way forward has to be found. This can only be done by raising standards all around. Found, the remark of PM Modi, suggesting UP CM is progressive after he dared to break the NOIDA jinx, a very interesting one. If reason prevails, there is hope yet!
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                  1. Ramesh Nittoor
                    Dec 29, 2017 at 11:24 pm
                    Think tank capacity of rest of India, which includes all the retired folks, and well-wishers of India abroad, it far greater now than that of Indian government personnel. It makes eminent sense of have a 'really' free press hereafter than ever before. It is the right place to focus as key to the transformation process being sought, and there is no place for pla udes here, since benchmarks and rankings do exist.
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                  2. Ramesh Nittoor
                    Dec 30, 2017 at 12:33 am
                    May be quitters never win, and only paranoid succeed. But here the only way to establish not being paranoid but has been sort of a rational necessity, is to quit. Communication is not just about expressing our thoughts, it is also about being credible to discernible.
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                  3. Indian
                    Dec 29, 2017 at 4:02 pm
                    QURAN PROHIBITS MUSLIMS from HELPING NON-MUSLIMS. The 3:28 VERSE of QURAN is "Let not the believers take the disbelievers as Auliya (supporters, helpers, etc.) instead of the believers, and whoever does that will never be helped by God in any way, except if you indeed fear a danger from them. And God warns you against Himself (His Punishment), and to God is the final return". ............... So JADHAV may have faced discrimination doing BUSINESS in ISLAMIC REPUBLIC of IRAN being an IDOL WORSHIPPING HINDU and may decided to obtain FAKE PASSPORT as a MUSLIM to improve his business prospects. India certainly is NOT a country which claims that IT'S IMPOSSIBLE TO MAKE FAKE INDIAN PASSPORT. Holding a FAKE PASSPORT does not make JADHAV a SPY or is HOLDING a FAKE PASSPORT punishable with Death.
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                    1. Qamar Saleem
                      Dec 29, 2017 at 11:43 am
                      Come on guys Indian MEA talking everything except the Passport thing, i mean Pakistan's main proof is that passport recovered from yadav, bearing a muslim name, Indian MEA should deny/dispute that passport, Pak foreign office sent a Letter of interest to MEA India with the copy of that passport attached, this passport has been used 17 times by yadav for travel, these r very direct questions/accusations, yesterday Pak FO spokesperson again asked about that passport, why Indian authorities are shying away from that passport, they talk everything but not challenge the veracity of that passport, neither in ICJ nor anywhere else like UNO, and why still India hasn't lodged any formal complaint with Iran about the so called kidnapping of one of its citizens from Iranian soil? it would had made Indian case even more strong, why India lodged case in ICJ just for consular access? why Indian govt is not pleading his innocence in ICJ? i mean Indians should ask these basic questions from their govt
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                      1. Indian
                        Dec 29, 2017 at 3:48 pm
                        QURAN SURAH 3:28- Al Imran clearly states "Let not Believers take for friends or helpers Unbelievers rather than Believers". JHADAV who was doing BUSINESS in ISLAMIC REPUBLIC of IRAN may have benefited by projecting himself as a MUSLIM rather than as an IDOL WORSHIPPING HINDU and may have obtained a FAKE PASSPORT as MUSLIM. All FAKE PASSPORT HOLDERS are not spies and HOLDING a FAKE PASSPORT is not punishable with DEATH except may be in PORKISTAN.
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                        1. vijayganesan damodaran
                          Dec 29, 2017 at 5:24 pm
                          Not like kasab who killed civilians as coolie but INDIA owned jadhav, let him be a spy or trader, the international laws and spies exchange between countries may happen
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