JADHAV CASE: A DIPLOMATIC TUG OF WAR
The International Court of Justice in The Hague had directed Pakistan in July to stay the execution of Kulbhushan Jadhav and grant him consular access. Jadhav has been in Pakistan’s custody since 2016 after being accused of terrorism, spying and fomenting trouble, and was sentenced to death in 2017 by a military court. India, however, maintains that he was kidnapped in Iran and his presence in Pakistan was never credibly explained.
This week, a meeting finally took place between India’s chargé d’affaires
Gaurav Ahluwalia and Jadhav. However, despite India’s objection, it happened in the presence of Pakistani officials, who also recorded the entire proceedings.
On August 1, India had rejected a proposal of consular access saying that the terms and conditions did not adhere to the spirit of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. New Delhi had sought “unimpeded” and “uninterrupted” access to Jadhav without scrutiny from the Pakistani establishment.
The provisions in the Vienna Convention regarding consular access are vague.
Pakistan maintains that the terms and conditions under which access was granted did not violate Article 36 (1) (c), which simply says that ‘consular officers shall have the right to visit a national of the sending State who is in prison, custody or detention, to converse and correspond with him and to arrange for his legal representation’, but doesn’t spell out how the consular access should be provided to the sending State (India). In fact, Article 36 (2) says ‘this article shall be exercised in conformity with the laws and regulations of the receiving State’, which, in this case, is Pakistan. So, Islamabad insisted their officials be present, but promised that there would be no interference. Indian sources said that “humanitarian considerations overruled India’s reservations”, and they had to see how Jadhav was faring physically and mentally.
The one point on which India dug in its heels was to not have any military presence in the room, to which Pakistan agreed. The atmosphere for the meeting was certainly not ideal, but India had to make do. The ministry of external affairs, in a statement, said: ‘It was clear that Shri Jadhav appeared to be under extreme pressure to parrot a false narrative to bolster Pakistan’s untenable claims. We will decide a further course of action after receiving a detailed report from our Cd’A and determining the extent of conformity to the ICJ directives’.
Considering this was Ahluwalia’s first meeting with Jadhav, this is not surprising. The next step would be to ensure legal aid and a free and fair trial for the Indian national. Pakistan will have to go beyond just a one-time consular access to fully abide by the ICJ judgment. ■
THE VIENNA CONVENTION SAYS CONSULAR ACCESS SHOULD BE GIVEN IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE LAWS OF THE RECEIVING STATE (IN THIS CASE, PAKISTAN)
SEEKING JUSTICE Indian officials at the International Court of Justice; and Kulbhushan Jadhav (inset)