Pakistan’s gesture of allowing family of Kulbhushan Yadav, the Indian national who has been in Pakistani custody for the past 22 months, is not something which is merely humanitarian but tactical, coming ahead of a written submission it has to make at the International Court of Justice, where the case of Kulbhushan Jadhav is being heard.
The hard fact remains that despite Pakistan’s claims that Jadhav was allegedly an agent of R&AW he was in fact abducted from Iran a third country by Pakistani intelligence agency the ISI.
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Pakistan government is not doing a favour to India or international community by allowing the family to meet Jadhav it is duty bound to do it, in fact, it has violated the Vienna convention by not allowing the Indian officials and the family consular access. It is an open case of yet another international violation by Pakistan, and Islamabad has to decide that if it has to be on the right side of the international law or become an international pariah.
Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khwaja Asif claims that it has made a concession by allowing his family to meet Jadhav, but the reality is that Pakistan needs to demonstrate to the international court that it is abiding by the international norms.
Pakistan has made another cardinal mistake by not allowing the family to meet Jadhav alone as if it is serious about dubbing it as a goodwill gesture then it must walk the talk on this. It will be an emotional moment for the family to be united with their loved one, and to turn into a publicity stunt will be to my mind an act which is far away from being humanitarian.
In fact Pakistan has the opportunity to prove to the world that it can act with maturity and should have kept the meeting with the family at a secure location away from the media glare. Even now it should ensure that the family is not subjected to any media scrutiny as this will be a hostile act and will be counterproductive for its global conduct.
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Undoubtedly there is a domestic power play in Pakistan which is dictating the outcome of the Kulbhushan Jadav case, the hardliners in Pakistani security establishment vs the realists in the Pakistani government. However it is here again that Pakistan must realise that by taking a cussed view on the Kulbhushan Jadhav case it runs the risk of not only creating a larger wall of hostility with India, there is even a bigger risk of a permanent anti Pakistan feeling amongst the Indian mindset which has so far not been closed to a good relationship between India and Pakistan. If it does go ahead and curb terrorism against India, take action against 26/11 perpetrators and hand over Jadhav back to India, the tide can turn which will be beneficial for Pakistan as well which can gain from an economic relationship with India.
However, a hostile and non-cooperative attitude, in this case, can jeopardise the chances of mending the fences between the two neighbours.
For India which has gone all out on the Jadhav case, the Government must demonstrate its resolve to ensure that Jadhav is brought back to India. In the past, there have been instances of countries at war exchanging prisoners and despite a chill between the two sides both realise that there are enormous diplomatic stakes in this case. It is also about that India cares for its citizens and to the credit of the Narendra Modi government, both the Prime Minister and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj have been proactive in helping its citizens in distress, in this case too they need to use their good offices to engage with the Pakistani leadership to secure the release of Jadhav.
Diplomacy is about the game of give and take and there are enough Pakistani prisoners in India and away from the media glare they should discuss a prisoner swap on humanitarian grounds, this can only happen if India is able to convince Pakistan that it has a lot to lose if it does not treat Jadhav fairly. India now has enough global clout, and it must impress the key Pakistani friends in the global community that it has much to lose if it does not hand back Jadhav to India.
Dealing with an irrational actor in this case Pakistan, is not easy and clearly, it is a complicated case, but it will be a game of strategic chess more than diplomatic or operational which can bring Kulbhushan Jadhav back home to India. For Narendra Modi government which faces elections in 2019, it will be an excellent morale booster to get Jadhav home in 2018. Clearly, it will have something to deliver to Pakistan in exchange so both sides can claim a diplomatic victory.
That should be a logical outcome of the case, but both sides will do well to ensure that these negotiations happen in the interest of the larger relationship between the two countries because any foolhardy decision on part of Pakistan on Kulbhushan Jadhav case will create a path of irreversible repair for already bruised Indo Pak ties.