Relief and a diplomatic victory are the big takeaways for India from an international court’s provisional order on Thursday that prohibits Pakistan from executing an alleged Indian spy until the verdict is out.
Also, The Hague-based International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) intervention is likely to bolster the Narendra Modi government’s position that it will do everything to secure the release of former Indian naval officer Kulbhushan Jadhav.
The 46-year-old was allegedly arrested in Balochistan in March 2016 and a Pakistani military court convicted him of espionage and sabotage this April. India warned it would be considered a premeditated murder should Pakistan hang an innocent man.
“The ICJ order has come as a great relief to the family of Kulbhushan Jadhav and people of India,” external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj said.
India scored diplomatic points against its arch rivals, but the danger to Jadhav’s life has not diminished as Pakistan might reject the UN court’s order.
Pakistan remained defiant and is likely to challenge the jurisdiction of the ICJ in “matters of national security”.
“As far as Pakistan is concerned, the decision has not changed the status of Jadhav’s case in any manner,” the nation’s attorney general said.
Jadhav was sentenced to death for “spying and for acts of terrorism”, and has ample time to “petition for clemency”. “We are determined to pursue this case to its logical end,” he said.
There are fears that Pakistan could hang Jadhav before the ICJ pronounces its verdict, though Indian foreign ministry spokesperson Gopal Baglay said the international court’s order is “legally binding”.
“The ICJ order is clear, favourable and unambiguous,” he said.
But there are instances of the US sidestepping a similar order of the court to go ahead with execution orders.
India moved the ICJ citing imminent danger to Jadhav’s life, after Pakistan didn’t respond to 16 requests for consular access to the prisoner.
The court order didn’t explicitly deal with this particular Indian appeal to allow access to the man under the rules of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of 1963.
Increasingly tense bilateral ties could ensure the Jadhav case will drag on for months, if not years.
India accuses Pakistan of supporting cross-border terrorism, especially in the restive Kashmir Valley, and holds the neighbour responsible for unprovoked shelling at frontier areas, and terrorist attacks on Indian military bases. Islamabad blames New Delhi for the insurgency in Balochistan.
The two countries are no longer talking. Even routine bilateral exchanges were frozen. Foreign policy experts said a “huge political will on both sides” will be required to ease tension and improve ties.