A little over two weeks have passed since the International Court of Justice issued a verdict in the case of Kulbhushan Jadhav, the alleged Indian spy sentenced to death by Pakistani military court. In the bilateral case between India and Pakistan, the ICJ stayed the execution on May 18. The conversation around the verdict in India, however, has been incessant and laced with the fear that Pakistan might not comply with the court’s stay.
Ever since Jadhav’s arrest and the announcement of his death sentence, India has expressed dissatisfaction and anger towards Pakistan on multiple related counts even culminating in the threat to freeze bilateral relations. Predictably therefore, the ICJ verdict left many in India feeling vindicated – and the conversation surrounding the case reflects this too.
Early on, as the ICJ began its enquiry, Indian media presented the Indian position as strategic and geared to win this round by being both meticulous and on the right side. The primary fear at that point was that Pakistan might orchestrate an execution before a verdict was even reached – even though Pakistan had clarified that there would be no immediate execution.
The eventually favorable verdict was celebrated as a moral victory. India lost no time in attempting to tell Pakistan that this was legally binding, even as strands of media opinion portrayed Pakistan as a country in denial. Pakistan in the meanwhile has in public statements called India’s strategy political theatre and has discussed changing its legal team ahead of the final decision.
Feeding into the Indian fears, however, was a petition in Pakistan’s Supreme Court, calling for the immediate execution of Jadhav. Arguing that the ICJ decision was not a binding directive, the petitioner requested an early decision on pending appeals. In response to the uproar among Indian media following this news, as well as their treatment of the case proceedings, Pakistan has responded confirming that Jadhav shall remain alive until his clemencies are all exhausted. The statement also accused Indian media of creating an illusion that the case was won.
India’s response has been to once more reiterate Pakistan’s alleged lack of transparency. Conversation post the verdict, while celebrating the perceived victory, also cautions New Delhi to constantly keep up the pressure on Pakistan to ensure a win in the final round. As tensions continue to persist, another arrest by Pakistan has provoked a new demand from India for consular access to a prisoner – access that was denied in the Jadhav case 16 times. Pakistan has in the meanwhile asked India for information on a former army officer who went missing in Nepal – with Pakistani media alleging Indian abduction.
As both countries gear up for ICJ’s announcement of the timetable leading upto the final verdict, tensions continue to flare. And both sets of media in particular seemed equally charged for battle, feeding into the polarity.