Unseemly spat: on the Kulbhushan Jadhav reunion


The meeting in Islamabad between former naval commander Kulbhushan Jadhav and his family should have been a sign that India and Pakistan are able to adhere to internationally accepted norms in dealing with officers accused of espionage. Instead, Mr. Jadhav’s meeting with his mother and his wife has led quickly to an unseemly spat, with fears that bilateral ties could now deteriorate further. India has reason to complain on several counts. First, it took months for Pakistan to allow the meeting after Pakistan conducted a secret military court trial of Mr. Jadhav on terrorism and spying charges, which seemed a sham. India had to take its case for consular access to the International Court of Justice for Pakistan to be made to pause the process, and give a commitment that Mr. Jadhav’s execution sentence would be on hold pending a decision. Second, having accepted the visit, Pakistan’s Foreign Office turned a personal, humanitarian meeting into a media circus, with photographs of the meeting and a prepared video statement from Mr. Jadhav thanking the Pakistani government released. A gaggle of hostile journalists hurled undignified questions at the women. Pakistan would have been expected to use the visit to showcase its “humanitarian gesture”, but its conduct of the Jadhav reunion was crass.

India’s statement reacting to Pakistan’s actions bears closer scrutiny as well. To have objected to the frisking, change of attire and removal of the mangalsutra necklace, bindi, and so on obscures other, more egregious actions that India could rightfully have taken up. Most prison manuals in India mandate the removal of all metal objects and most accessories, while several prisoner-family meetings around the world take place across glass screens, especially when they involve terror suspects. References to Pakistan’s “religious and cultural insensitivity” needlessly give the episode a denominational tinge. Instead, India should have made its objections on the other procedural blunders from their understanding known, but by summoning the relevant Pakistani diplomat to South Block. Going forward, India and Pakistan should ensure that their exchanges on Mr. Jadhav are conducted through quiet diplomacy. If the object is to save him from an unfair trial and sentencing, where a coerced confession and dual passports appear to be the only evidence against him, then it is in India’s interests to convince Pakistan and the world of the benefits of doing so. Backed in a corner on several counts from other countries on the issue of terrorism, Pakistan may well be persuaded of the inhumanity, injustice, and imprudence of carrying out Mr. Jadhav’s sentence — but it will need a face-saver which can only be found through reasoned diplomacy. When a man’s life hangs in the balance, political point-scoring, especially at this stage, can be counterproductive.

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Printable version | Oct 27, 2020 9:17:30 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/unseemly-spat-kulbhushan-jadhav/article22288593.ece

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