A day after India got a stay on Pakistan’s death sentence to arrested former Navy official Kulbhushan Jadhav at an international tribunal, the government defended going to the tribunal, as a “carefully considered decision.” The Ministry of External Affairs said the decision to resort to arbitration at the International Court of Justice, after a gap of 46 years, was appropriate as the ultimate aim is to save Mr. Jadhav’s life.
“Despite requesting the government of Pakistan, we did not get the documents on the case. We do not know the status of the petition and the appeal filed by the mother of Mr. Jadhav. The visas sought for by his family have not been granted. In this situation to save the life of an Indian who was kidnapped and who was not given a fair trial, we have approached the International Court of Justice,” said spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs Gopal Baglay. He added, “the case is a consular matter.”
India had repeatedly sought consular access to Mr. Jadhav and had been repeatedly denied it. The spokesperson said the ICJ had informed New Delhi about the steps it has initiated in response to India’s request.
The ICJ on Tuesday stated in a press release that India seeks suspension of the death sentence that has been given to Mr. Jadhav by a Pakistani military tribunal. India is expected to take up the case on May 15 when senior advocate Harish Salve will represent it.
Pakistan did not comment on the stay order, with Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz saying that Islamabad was currently studying the issue of jurisdiction of the ICJ. In a tweet, Pakistan’s Defence Minister Khawaja M. Asif alleged that the Indian move was part of a diversionary tactic. “Indian letter to ICJ attempts to divert attention from state-sponsored terrorism in Pakistan. Kulbhushan convicted of offences against (Pakistani) national security,” Mr. Asif said.
Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa on Wedensday discussed the ICJ’s order, media reports from Islamabad said. During the meeting, which lasted around 90 minutes, Mr. Sharif was briefed on the “latest situation” regarding Jadhav’s case.
India has in the past refused to accept the jurisdiction of the ICJ on issues such as the Atlantique aircraft incident of 1999 and in the Saurav Kalia case. However, the MEA spokesperson sought to differentiate between the consular and human rights issues. “Jurisdiction is not for me to decide. As of now, we have been informed of the action that the court has initiated in this matter. This is a carefully considered decision to save the life of a son of India,” the spokesperson said.
However, in a sign that the current standoff over Mr. Jadhav is leading to greater strain in bilateral ties, the MEA admitted that it has imposed new restrictions on medical visas to Pakistani citizens.
“We have suggested that if the Foreign Affairs Adviser of Pakistan issues recommendation letters for patients, we will immediately issue the visa.”
( With PTI inputs )