In the wake of the tumultuous relationship between India and Pakistan, the arrest of an Indian citizen on alleged espionage charges last year and the stay of execution filed by the International Court of Justice (ICJ), has only added fuel to the fire. The case took an international shift on May 8th when India decided to seek help from the ICJ so as to secure the release of the Indian national.
1. How did this story emerge?
In the last week of March 2016, the Pakistani government announced the arrest of an Indian “spy”. On March 25th, they lodged a formal protest with the Indian government against his ‘illegal entry’ and ‘subversive activities’. The accused was identified as Kulbhushan Jadhav, and he was reportedly arrested in the Chaman area of Balochistan, close to the Afghan border.
2. Who is Kulbhushan Jadhav?
Jadhav is a native of Mumbai, and the son of a retired Mumbai Police ACP (Assistant Commissioner of Police). He was previously an officer in the Indian Navy, but is thought to have taken early retirement from the navy to pursue a business career. His family asserts that he is a legitimate businessman with no ties to Indian intelligence. He is said to have been engaged in the business of running ferries from the Iranian ports of Bandar Abbas and Chabahar.
3. What is he accused of?
Pakistani media reports suggest that Jadhav was caught with an Indian passport under an assumed identity which contained an Iranian residency permit. Balochi authorities claim that he is an Indian Navy officer working for India’s premier intelligence agency, R.A.W. (Research & Analysis Wing), and that he had been in contact with Balochi separatists responsible for sectarian violence in the province. This is a significant accusation, as it would implicate India in supporting the persistent insurgency in Balochistan.
4. What is the Indian government’s response to these allegations?
A spokesperson for the Indian Ministry of External Affairs said that Kulbhushan Jadhav has had no association with the Indian government since his retirement from the Navy, and that “India has no interest in interfering in internal matters of any country and firmly believes that a stable and peaceful Pakistan is in the interest of all in the region.”
5. What is the Iranian response to these allegations?
Iran is an important trade and security partner for India, and has been a long time friend of Pakistan as well. Given these sensitive diplomatic ties, and with the accused possibly being an Iranian resident, the Pakistan Army media wing claimed that General Raheel Sharif had discussed the issue of RAW involvement in Balochistan with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during his ongoing state visit to Pakistan. However, the Iranian President refuted this, saying “I have heard this more than 20 times. Whenever we become close to Pakistan such rumours come up. We have brotherly relations with Pakistan. We also have a good relationship with India, thus there is no problem.”
6. Why is the International Court of Justice involved?
Pakistani military court sentenced Kulbhushan Jadhav to death on charges of ‘spying’ earlier this month. Army chief, Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa claims that a move like this will serve as a warning to those plotting against the nation.
After Indian Government’s multiple failed attempts to gain consular access to Kulbhushan Jadhav, a decision was taken to move the case to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and to bar Pakistan from carrying out the execution. Pakistan’s failure to comply with the stay order will result in serious defiance of the rules of Vienna Convection.
The stay order puts immense pressure on the Pakistani government to not carry out the execution and to release the Indian national. Pakistan’s raging aggression along the line of control and the death sentence awarded to Jadhav has put the Indo-Pak relationship under a serious threat. This comes as a shame to both the governments who have been unable to curb the rising tension brewing between the neighbours.
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