The International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) unanimous ruling on Thursday, ordering Pakistan not to execute an Indian naval officer convicted of espionage and terrorism, has come as a major relief for India, while Pakistan maintains that the provisional verdict does not alter the status of Kulbhushan Jadhav’s case in any manner. Islamabad has accused Jadhav of carrying out “terrorist activities aimed at destabilising Pakistan” on behalf of India’s foreign intelligence agency, while New Delhi says Jadhav was kidnapped from Iran and a subsequent military trial in Pakistan that sentenced him to death was “farcical”.
The hearings at The Hague last week were fraught with bitter war of words and counter-arguments. While the Pakistan foreign ministry said Jadhav had “ample time to petition for clemency”, India expressed concern over the lack of consular access to him and called it a breach of the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.
Beyond the rhetoric, however, what is notable is that the ICJ’s ruling has not found favour with arguments of either side — the court has simply provided a ruling on a provisional matter to restrain Pakistan from taking any irrevocable steps. The ICJ will now proceed to examine in closer details its jurisdiction in the case and eventually the possible merits of the death sentence handed down to Jadhav. While the world will have to wait perhaps for weeks or months for the final outcome to be reached, what is undisputed is that the case has further strained relations between the two nuclear neighbours who are also signatories to the ICJ — the main judicial organ of the United Nations.
The need of the hour is to defuse the current state of bilateral tension, continue to engage each other in dialogue and work towards an environment of peace and development, while ensuring that the rule of law prevails in dispensing justice in the case of Jadhav.