The unanimous ruling of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordering Pakistan to stay the execution of Kulbhushan Jadhav till the pronouncement of final judgment marks a significant diplomatic victory for India. The government’s risky gambit of approaching the ICJ, the United Nation’s judicial arm, on a bilateral matter has paid dividends as Islamabad now stands exposed for its flagrant violation of the Vienna Convention on consular access. The temporary reprieve for the 46-year-old former Indian Naval officer provides a window of opportunity for New Delhi to step up diplomatic, legal and back-channel efforts to save him from the gallows. While the final verdict is expected in August, the interim order was unambiguous when it asked Islamabad to take all measures to ensure that Jadhav is not executed pending the final decision in the proceedings and to inform the court about the steps taken to comply with the order. The ICJ has endorsed India’s contention that Pakistan had violated the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of 1963 — Islamabad is a signatory to the treaty — by denying consular access to Jadhav despite 16 reminders sent to them. The court rejected Pakistan’s argument that there was no urgency because Jadhav’s execution date was not fixed. It also saw no merit in Islamabad’s argument that a 2008 bilateral agreement on consular access exempts cases related to national security. Instead, the court gave precedence to the Vienna Convention, a multilateral treaty.
Despite being exposed on a global forum, Pakistan put up a public posturing that it would not accept ICJ’s jurisdiction in matters of national security. However, it would be suicidal for Islamabad to flout the interim order. Since Jadhav’s trial was conducted by a military court in secret, making a mockery of justice, it is now up to the Nawaz Sharif-led civilian government to correct the situation and demonstrate that Pakistan respects international laws. Already, Islamabad is facing global isolation for its duplicity on terrorism. If the military establishment gains an upper hand in the ongoing tussle with the civilian government and goes for a misadventure in the Jadhav case, the consequences could be disastrous for the country. If Pakistan carries out the execution in contravention of the ICJ order, it will expose itself to international sanctions and would be seen as a rogue State. Providing consular access to Jadhav is implicit in the ICJ’s order, though it was not expressed in so many words. Islamabad will be well advised to shift the case to a civil court to facilitate fair trial and examination of evidence, if any, in an impartial and transparent manner. It is clear that the trial conducted by Field General Court Martial was a sham, reflecting arbitrariness typical of kangaroo courts.