Islamabad’s self-goal

It can ignore ICJ’s injunction in the Jadhav case, but doing so will extract a price in international goodwill.

Written by Husain Haqqani | Updated: May 19, 2017 12:32 am
Kulbhushan Jadhav, Kulbhushan Jadhav sentence, jadhav death sentence, international court of justice, ICJ, jadhav ICJ, pakistan, india, death sentence stay, Jadhav hearing, indian express news, india news, indian express opinion Kulbhushan Jadhav was awarded a death sentence by a military court in Pakistan on April 10.

When Pakistan’s intelligence services arrested Kulbhushan Jadhav, they thought they had found the smoking gun that would help them make the case against India for orchestrating terrorism, especially in insurgency-stricken Balochistan. So far, the only significant outcome of the sequence of events involving Jadhav is the worsening of India-Pakistan ties.

The international community, which has become accustomed to South Asian histrionics, does not seem too moved by the debate over whether Jadhav is a spy or not and whether India or Pakistan is right in this latest of their periodic spats.

Jadhav’s arrest was followed by a video-taped confession and an unannounced trial by a military court resulting in a death sentence. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has now stayed the execution while it hears India’s plea that Pakistan violated the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations by denying Jadhav consular access, saying that India’s assertion is “plausible”.

The ICJ’s preliminary ruling is a snub to Pakistan, which is arguing that the ICJ lacks jurisdiction. Pakistan rests its case on Article (vi) of the May 21, 2008 Agreement on Consular Access between India and Pakistan, which states that “in case of arrest, detention or sentence made on political or security grounds, each side may examine the case on its merits.”

Precedent indicates that the ICJ does not interpret bilateral agreements in a manner that supercedes obligations of states under international treaties. The ICJ is likely to find Pakistan in violation of the Vienna Convention over denial of consular access even in its final verdict, even if it does not go further in its ruling.

Pakistan could ignore the ICJ’s injunction, as some hyper-nationalists are already suggesting, but doing so would come at a price in international goodwill. As it is, Pakistan’s standing in the comity of nations is not very high at the moment. Refusing to implement the decision of the international court on grounds of sovereignty might get applause at home, but will not improve Pakistan’s relations with a world already sceptical of Pakistan’s policies.

Notwithstanding the final outcome of the ICJ proceedings, it is unlikely that Pakistan’s real goal in the Jadhav matter will be achieved. That goal is to convince the world that India is as much to blame, if not more, for terrorism on Pakistani soil as Pakistan is for terrorism in India and beyond.

The military men who make such decisions in Pakistan are trained as soldiers, not lawyers or politicians. Their simple mind does not understand that international support for a nation depends on its political and economic clout, not its ability to produce uncorroborated confessional statements of spies or would-be terrorists.

Currently, India is the bigger trading partner of all major countries than Pakistan, many of whom also look at it as a destination or source of investment. Such interests act as a deterrent to most global actors supporting Pakistan’s claim of being pushed around by India with the help of “spies” or “terrorism enablers” that Pakistan arrests and sentences.

The rest of the world already knows that India and Pakistan spy on each other. It is not much of a secret, nor is the claim by both sides that the other supports insurgencies inside its territory, and hanging someone just to prove that point is rather unnecessary.

In any case, assuming Pakistan’s assertions on the Jadhav case are all correct, a single spy distributing money to would-be secessionists or insurrectionists is not the same as running training camps for jihadi groups for three decades.

Most of the countries Pakistan is hoping to convince of Indian perfidy have, over the years, documented Pakistan’s support for groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Muhammad, recognised all over the world as terrorist groups. Pakistan does not help its case by allowing these groups to operate under new names after banning them. Nor is it helped by the public activities and media appearances of the leaders of such groups.

What, then, does Pakistan’s military-intelligence complex hope to achieve by prolonging the confrontation over one individual Indian, spy or not? It is probably meant to heighten the sentiment in Pakistan, carefully nurtured over the years by its establishment, that India remains Pakistan’s “eternal enemy”. It will likely also deter civilian leaders, mainly Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, from any new initiative to mend fences with India.

Media frenzy about the arrest and sentencing of a spy will keep the pot of neighbourly enmity boiling, even if it is largely ignored outside South Asia. Pakistan’s hyper-nationalist narrative already positions the country as the target of a global conspiracy and portrays its nuclear-armed military and intelligence agency as the only bulwarks against annihilation.

Jadhav’s conviction for espionage helps the Pakistani establishment advance its case to Pakistanis of a besieged Pakistan that would be at India’s mercy were it not for the military and the ISI.

Already, social media — widely manipulated by the ISI’s ‘M’ (for media) Wing and extensive activism from retired military officers — is advancing conspiracy theories about civilian collusion with India. Sharif’s government is alleged to have compromised Pakistan’s “principled stance” on the Jadhav case by appearing before the ICJ instead of going ahead and carrying out Jadhav’s sentence.

If the objective of Pakistan’s establishment is to keep India-Pakistan hatred alive, the truth about who Kulbhushan Jadhav is and what he was doing when he was picked up is hardly relevant. The desire to internationalise the India-Pakistan conflict, however, seems hardly likely to be fulfilled any time soon.

The writer, director for South and Central Asia at the Hudson Institute in Washington D.C., was Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States from 2008-11. His latest book is ‘India v Pakistan: Why Can’t We Just Be Friends?’ (2016, Juggernaut Books)

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  1. S
    Sridhar Kaushik
    May 20, 2017 at 10:02 am
    Nice article. One can see the tug of war between civilian govt in stan and its Army. Nawaz Sharief is the bad guy today as he has not even spoken against Kulbhushan Yadhav! May be he did not have to because he did not believe Yadhav is a terrorist. It is one thing to be a spy and another to be a terrorist. Army wanted to project India as inflicting terrorism on stan and this guy Jadhav is being used. If this were not the case, Jadhave would have been shot and news projected as a terrorist killed while trying to escape! Fact that Jadhav is beign kept alive is to paint India in the image of a nation fostering terrorism. Well, that is like the pot cal the kettle black! For decades, stan has been unleashing terrorism on India through organizations like LeT that gets support of Army and ISI. Osama bin Laden was found in Abbotabad, not Allahabad!
    Reply
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      Arun
      May 20, 2017 at 3:33 am
      Well written constructive article! Most stanis will not appreciate this article, but here's a patriotic stani. The stan Army has created a mess for stan and I hope the world isolates it.
      Reply
      1. G
        g
        May 20, 2017 at 2:20 am
        Reasonable analysis by Husain Haqqani, but his views are never valued by P a k i s t a n.
        Reply
        1. M
          MyTake
          May 19, 2017 at 11:29 pm
          What if Jadav is already half dead because of stani "Normal" treatments in jail and they are considering hanging him is the only "face saving" way out! What conclusions one can come to when one thinks about stan?
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          1. M
            MyTake
            May 19, 2017 at 11:22 pm
            If stan is left to get away with this, it will open the door to capture any number of Indians and declare they are spy and have a field day in what they do best. Eventually India will be forced to join the stani "game" and a new front will be opened "spy game" changing into "war game" by stealth. Then of course the real war will begin. It is the responsibility of humanity to force stan to behave normally when at least it is dea with citizens of other countries, if not of their own!
            Reply
            1. H
              HG KETKAR
              May 19, 2017 at 5:54 pm
              IT is really surprising that after ICJ decision towards stoppage of death sentence to Jadhav, there were sweet distribution across the country. In fact, the Indian government should have come into super act immediately, when he was arrested in Iran and diverted to Baloochistan (as placed by Indian officials) objecting for such arrest. But after the military court order for death, the Indian authority went to ICJ and succeeded in halting the sentence. The sweets can be attributable to Indians only if and when Kulbhushan Jadhav is brought back to India lively. Because, even now, when he is breathing in stan, God knows how crucial his life style in an enemy country like stan, where the Indians are never considered as human being. The similar type of incidence with Sarabjeet had happened and lastly he was killed in the jail by other jail mets. Let us prey to GOD for bring back to Kulbhushan Jadhav to India.
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              1. M
                manu
                May 19, 2017 at 2:48 pm
                Pak Army is creating problems for its civilian government. Everything in Jadhav's case was done by Pak Army but the the indefensible case was handed over to it s gov for defending it.
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                1. P
                  pagrri
                  May 19, 2017 at 2:23 pm
                  As for your another joker Khalil Ahmad is concerned..nobody knows his name in the land of the pure.He must be an Indian masquerading as Pakkistani.We,in the land of the pure,dont care about these pa dogs.We have our own law in the land of the pure.So we care a for ICJ.But yes..if this biased ICJ takes notice of Indian atrocities in Kashmir and give capital punishment to Fodi..err..modi. then we ll take them bit seriously.Peace for the common Indian.Jay land of the pure.
                  Reply
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