A Mat­ter of Life and Death

India Today - - UPFRONT - — San­deep Un­nithan

Dis­putes be­tween In­dia and Pak­istan reach the In­ter­na­tional Court of Jus­tice (ICJ) after war. On May 11, 1973, Pak­istan con­tested the im­pend­ing repa­tri­a­tion of 195 Pak­istani pris­on­ers of war to Bangladesh. Held by In­dia after the 1971 war, the PoWs in­cluded Eastern army com­man­der Lt Gen. A.A.K. Ni­azi.

Again in 1999, Pak­istan de­manded ac­tion against In­dia for shoot­ing down a Pak­istani naval pa­trol plane three months after the Kargil War.

On May 16 this year, it was In­dia’s turn to pe­ti­tion the ICJ. An MEA del­e­ga­tion backed by its coun­sel, Har­ish Salve, re­quested the an­nul­ment of the April 10 death sen­tence a Pak­istani mil­i­tary court pro­nounced on Com­man­der Kulb­hushan Jad­hav and de­manded con­sular ac­cess to him. In­dia as­serts that Pak­istan had kid­napped the re­tired naval of­fi­cer last year from Ban­dar Ab­bas in Iran, where he was based. In­dia has con­sis­tently de­nied Pak­istan’s charge that he was a RAW spy fo­ment­ing vi­o­lence in Balochis­tan.

The ICJ is to pro­nounce its ver­dict soon, one dif­fi­cult for ei­ther coun­try to ig­nore. For Pak­istan, the pres­tige of its mil­i­tary is on the line. For In­dia, the stakes are as high be­cause Jad­hav’s ex­e­cu­tion could spark calls for re­tal­i­a­tion. “Peo­ple who live in glass houses should not throw stones,” warns G. Parthasarathy, for­mer high com­mis­sioner to Is­lam­abad. “Pak­istan is es­pe­cially vul­ner­a­ble as they have all sorts of du­bi­ous peo­ple in Nepal, Bangladesh, Thai­land, and In­dia can strike at a time and place of its choos­ing.” The 1999 case was dis­missed by The Hague on tech­ni­cal grounds, the lack of ju­ris­dic­tion, but what hap­pened to Pak­istan’s 1973 ap­peal is in­struc­tive. It was nul­li­fied by the New Delhi dec­la­ra­tion In­dia, Pak­istan and Bangladesh signed in Au­gust 1973, al­low­ing for repa­tri­a­tion of all PoWs. Jad­hav may not be a PoW but one such South Asian rap­proche­ment could well change his fate.

AP/ PETER DEJONG

AT THE HAGUE In­dia’s Deepak Mittal (left) greets Pak­istan’s Syed Zaidi

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