Commenting on the International Court of Justice (ICJ) verdict on the Kulbhushan Jadhav case, veteran ex-diplomat Kanwal Sibal writes that “India’s decision to move the International Court of Justice was imaginative but risky. It seemed to be at odds with our long-standing policy to deal with our issues with Pakistan bilaterally and not internationalise them. Our experience with UN institutions on Pakistan-related issues has been adverse, and therefore, approaching the ICJ dictated caution.”
We always had the option of not approaching the ICJ as there was a risk of entering an uncharted territory and things could go horribly wrong. But Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his team took the risk and relentlessly pursued the case.
The risk was high but the reward now is going to be even higher. Not just the verdict, which is a big boost to India’s efforts to secure safe release of Kubhushan Jadhav from Pakistani jail, the overwhelming nature of it signals a huge diplomatic victory for us.
And that is a cause for celebration.
Approaching the ICJ Was a Bold Move
The verdict will have the following implications:
- Indian national Jadhav is going to get a fair trial in civilian courts in Pakistan and there is a possibility of acquittal too. If there is forward movement from both the sides, a ground can be created for Jadhav’s exchange. But that may take a while, perhaps few years.
- Pakistan is unlikely to succeed in confusing the international community by blaming India for fomenting trouble in Baluchistan. Pakistan’s propaganda machinery will have to come up with something solid rather than relying on so-called confessional statements of captured Indian nationals.
- If Pakistan takes the ICJ verdict positively, looks like it will as the entire world is watching now, the relations between the two estranged neighbours will improve considerably. All good as and when they happen. Hope the two sides build on the gains achieved thus far.
This is not the first instance of Modi taking a big risk and pulling it off successfully. The Balakot airstrikes inside Pakistan following the ghastly terror attack in Pulwama was an even more audacious move.
Critics termed it as alarming since it meant abandoning the tried and tested formula of strategic restraint. What if Pakistan retaliates and the two nuclear armed neighbours get sucked into a full-scale war, critics asked and perhaps rightly so then.
We were in the middle of an election season and commentators warned us that the strike was meant to whip up jingoism. There was a clear sign of war hysteria in television studios.
Pakistan did retaliate a day later and captured one of our fighter pilots. Critics were ready with their “we told you so”.
Balakot Airstrike Was Risky But Worked to Our Advantage
However, events that followed seem to suggest that the Balakot strike resulted in restoration of strategic restraint yet again, bringing normalcy in the region.
A series of goodwill gestures from the Pakistani side – prompt release of Indian fighter pilot, sacking of a provincial minister for making vile anti-Hindu comments and arrests of 44 members of banned terrorists – indicates as much.
In the weeks that followed, dreaded Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorist Masood Azhar was designated as global terrorist at the UN forum where China, for a change, was on our side and Lashkar chief Hafiz Saeed was arrested.
It will be an exaggeration to say that all the recent developments that have gone our way are direct consequence of our aggressive position.
A combination of factors – partly global and partly because of Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s determined pursuit of creating a new Pakistan – has helped our position. The Balakot strike was a trigger perhaps that helped all the concerned parties to see reason.
There is no denying that we have had a series of moral victories over Pakistan in recent months. But we must also admit that the new Pakistani establishment has not played spoiler and that should cheer us up more than few moral victories here and there.
The airstrike and events that followed have given us hope that Indo-Pak relations can indeed become orderly.
This is not to suggest that everything has become rosy. Far from it. But it looks like we are slowly and surely moving towards a situation where constructive dialogue is possible. And that is no mean achievement, given the way the two neighbours have behaved in recent years.
Wuhan Summit, a Step in Right Direction?
Months before the skirmishes with Pakistan, China was breathing down our neck at Doklam. In the war of words that followed, we were staring at real escalation.
In that backdrop, the informal summit meeting between PM Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping at Wuhan was derided as a sign of capitulation. It was described as an event that was rich in photo-op and poor on substance.
Informal meeting sans structured agenda between the heads of states of two powerful nations? How is that possible, commentators would ask.
However, the informal summit has changed the discourse from confrontation to reconciliation, from open hostility to strengthening military ties. Signs of thaw perhaps.
There is no denying that there are thorny issues like the border dispute that continues to flare up, India’s opposition to China’s belt and road initiative and China’s overt attempts to woo India’s neighbouring allies. There is no forward movement on any of these outstanding issues.
However, the fact that we are discussing how to improve our trade relations (which currently is heavily skewed in China’s favour and getting worse every year) is a welcome sign.
So is perceptible shift in the way Indians’ think of China now as opposed to what was the prevailing sentiment a year ago. The fact that we are talking about a second informal summit to be held in Varanasi sometime in October is also a welcome change.
Yet another instance of Modi’s global bets beginning to bear fruit?
(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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