UNENDING KULBHUSHAN SAGA

One step forward, two steps backwards. This has been India’s experience in its dealings with Pakistan. The Kulbhushan Jadhav case is one example. With the International Court of Justice making it clear that Pakistan must review the death sentence it awarded to detained Kulbhushan Jhadav and allow consular access to him, Pakistan is reeling out excuses. It keeps insisting that India must first acknowledge he is a spy, without which his release would not be granted. The ICJ verdict has vindicated India’s stand against Jadhav’s conviction and incarceration.

India’s latest plea for immediate release of Jadhav, made by external affairs minister S Jaishankar and others, is unlikely to be heeded by Pakistan. India has been trying to save the life of its citizen for the past few years. Jadhav was arrested from an area in Iran, to where he had gone ostensibly for business purposes. Branded as a spy, he had been abducted by Pakistani agents from Iran in March, 2016, and an arrest effected in Balochistan province before he was jailed, tried and convicted. A death sentence was awarded to him a year later. By denying him consular access, Pakistan clearly violated the Geneva Convention.

Pakistan has, a few days ago, lifted the ban on flights from and to India after a four-month impasse after its imposition immediately after the Balakot IAF bombings. Security was obviously a reason for this ban, but not the only reason for its continuation for so long. India suffered losses of hundreds of crores of rupees on this count, but Pakistan too suffered equally in terms of loss of money, also as India too effected a ban on flights from Pakistan to the eastern sector.

Despite a no-talks stand adopted by India vis-a-vis Pakistan on bilateral issues until Pakistan ends its support to terror, India took a few steps forward in relation to opening of the Kartarpur corridor for pilgrimage, which has religious significance for Sikhs from both sides of the border. The second round of talks ended successfully a few days ago. Alongside, Pakistan, Prime Minister Imran Khan gives the impression that he is willing to build bridges with India. The military brass in Pakistan took a hit after the IAF overreach to Balakot at dead of night went unchallenged.

Pakistan is today facing a serious economic crisis. Its single-minded concentration of military build-up did it in. Playing the China game too will have its long-term adverse consequences to Pakistan. It is time Imran Khan acted in a positive manner vis-a-vis his nation’s approach to India.

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