It is no surprise that a Pakistani military court has sentenced Kulbhushan Jadhav, a retired Indian Navy officer, to death for "destabilising and waging war against Pakistan and inciting rebellion in Balochistan and Karachi".
On 3 March 2016, Jadhav, a one-man army (as Pakistan would like us to believe), was abducted from Iran’s Chabahar area by ISI agents, and later shown as apprehended in Balochistan. He was tried subsequently in secrecy by the military court.
Sham Verdict by Pakistani Military Court
This sham verdict was long in coming. The Indian High Commission was repeatedly denied consular access to him.
A video released by the ISI, listing evidence of his involvement, was morphed and edited heavily. The civilian courts were kept out of the trial because evidence was based solely on his confessions.
Pakistan PM’s advisor on foreign affairs Sartaj Aziz’s statement in Pakistan’s Senate that the evidence against Jadhav merely comprised statements and was not conclusive in nature was brushed aside.
The noises made by Pakistani human rights activists were ignored. It all boiled down to making an announcement one day that Jadhav will be executed.
Tough to Change Pakistan’s Stand
There is little that can be done to save Jadhav’s life. The MEA has warned vainly that it would treat his execution as a “premeditated murder". India’s Foreign Secretary routinely handed a diplomatic démarche, expressing horror at the court’s verdict, to the Pakistani High Commissioner.
New Delhi’s refusal to release Pakistani prisoners in retaliation is a threat that carries no meaning.
Exercises like parliamentarians’ condemnation, social media outbursts and petitioning the President do not work with rogue countries like Pakistan and North Korea. Amnesty International, other human rights organisations and the UN can denounce the verdict, but that makes no difference to the military court’s decision.
These groups earlier watched helplessly as Zia-ul-Haq manufactured evidence, coerced the judges and eventually executed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. The Pakistan Army’s credentials as butchers are impeccable.
The way it muzzles dissidents, carries out extrajudicial killings and strafes civilians and opponents in Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, further proves why it couldn't take a judicious view in Jadhav’s case.
Few Options Available
The time of debating the merit of the charges against Jadhav has gone. India neither has a retired Pakistani Army officer in its custody nor someone like Maulana Masood Azhar (ISI got him back in exchange for passengers of the hijacked Indian Airlines flight IC814 in 1999) to swap with Jadhav.
But despair is the refuge of weak hearts. Options are few but they must be tried. The Chinese are in an enviable position to force Pakistan Army to relent but the question is, why would they oblige India, given their uneasy relationship over a host of contentious issues? Saudi Arabia is another country which wields enormous clout with Pakistan, but will it go out of its way to address India’s concerns over a retired naval officer's conviction?
The maximum that Delhi can extract from Riyadh is to get the death sentence commuted to life sentence. But that will be very little in terms of relief. Other countries whose assistance could be sought are the UAE and Iran.
Hysteric reactions and grandstanding by officials and politicians will have to be avoided. What may still work is quiet diplomacy at the highest level.
It is interesting when you contrast the Pakistani military court’s sentencing of Jadhav with what happens in India. Abdul Basit, Pakistani High Commissioner, openly supports separatists and is regularly interviewed by Indian TV anchors where he brazenly challenges India’s territorial integrity and encourages Kashmiri terrorists to break away from India.
Jadhav may at best be trying to inquire about the pitiable condition of defenceless Balochs.
But what Geelani and other separatist leaders from Kashmir do is openly preach J&K’s secession and support an armed rebellion against India which is backed by resources from Pakistan. Yet we do not try them for treason in our military courts.
It is they who work actively for a foreign spy agency (ISI) and not Jadhav, who is alleged to be a RAW spy.
ISI vs RAW
Apparently, the Pakistani Army thinks poorly of RAW’s professionalism that it will send Jadhav to destabilise Balochistan and Karachi on a solo mission.
RAW did not need its officers’ physical presence in the then East Pakistan to help create Bangladesh.
ISI is capable of only kidnapping Jadhav, like the North Korean agents who regularly abducted Japanese nationals between 1977-1983, and build a case against him on the basis of confessions extracted in interrogation centres.
The most it can do is to use agents like Geelani to pelt stones, burn schools and convert Kashmiri youths into terrorists and in the process, get ostracised by the international community.
(The writer is a former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
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