When Commander Kulbhushan Jadhav, an Indian Navy officer seconded to RAW, was apprehended for espionage, sabotage and terrorism in Pakistan, nobody believed he was the most important Indian spy ever arrested in Pakistan and that this catch involved a huge prize. The prize was total destruction of Indian narrative involving Pakistan in every act of terrorism. He was sentenced to death under Pakistani laws in 2017. Immediately after his arrest, terrorist activities in Karachi came to a grinding halt with non-state actors neutralized while the restive Balochistan saw a significant decrease in terrorist activities.
Commander Jadhav was a prized catch for multiple reasons; one, for the first time any spy was ever publically owned by his masters departing from the past practice in case of terrorist spies like Sarabjit Singh, Kashmir Singh or Ravindra Kaushak caught and jailed by Pakistan, two, Pakistan obtained solid evidence that Jadhav was a serving military officer issued passport on fake identity and running fake business in Iranian port city of Chabahar with the help of Indian intelligence agency, three, Indians have taken extreme step of approaching International Court of Justice (ICJ) for his acquittal, release and return, and four, Kulbhushan along with his network was directly responsible for 1345 killings of innocent Pakistanis and injury to 7500 and financial cost to the tune of $ 3 billion USDs mainly in lost business and investment.
This is also for the first time India has approached ICJ for any dispute with Pakistan. In 1971, Pakistan approached ICJ in the case of prisoners of war and in 1999; it approached ICJ when India shot down Pakistani jet. In the first case, the matter was resolved bilaterally while in the second case, ICJ maintained it had no jurisdiction over the matter.
The ICJ is not a criminal court of appeal, therefore its verdict may not be as binding as in case of normal courts. India has so far tried to convince the court about violation of Vienna Convention by Pakistan which requires consular access. On the basis of this argument, they will try to have the death sentence annulled. They have talked about “farcical” nature of trial in a military court although under Pakistani law such offenses as committed by Jadhav are tried only in a military court under the law. The timing of some Pakistani politicians resisting military courts for the trial of terrorists, which were already working for many years, is also intriguing.
The outcome of ICJ verdict may have political ramifications for both the countries, both domestically and internationally. While any verdict short of acquittal will strengthen Pakistan’s stance on India-funded and India-sponsored acts of terrorism in Pakistan, it is very unlikely that the court will hand down any verdict to acquit the spy-terrorist given the amount of evidence produced before the court. If the court asks Pakistan to provide consular access and award life sentence instead of death penalty, it will establish credentials of Jadhav as a spy-terrorist and destroy Indian narrative.
The Court is mindful of the strained bilateral relations and implications of any clear verdict. If an unlikely verdict of acquittal and release is handed down, it will not be enforceable and acceptable for Pakistan. In such an eventuality, KBJ will remain in Pakistan and face Pakistani law. His release will undermine the entire narrative and rubbish tons of solid evidence. Pakistan has identified and neutralized numerous networks that were revealed by KBJ during his interrogation. This has led to a marked decrease in terrorist activities in Pakistan, particularly in Karachi and Balochistan.