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Sensitivity needed to control tension between India, Pak
Jatin Desai | Monday, 17 April 2017 AT 01:31 PM IST
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As expected, sentiments are running high in both India and Pakistan on the issue of Kulbhushan Jadhav. But the sentiments are exactly the opposite on both sides of the border. Indians believe that Jadhav is an innocent man caught in the crosshairs while Pakistanis believe he is an Indian spy.

These sentiments are but naturally reflected in the media of both countries. Media in any society is considered a mirror of that society. But when sentiments run deep and sharp as they do between India and Pakistan, objectivity becomes the first casualty. There has been no worthwhile or constructive dialogue between the two countries for some months now. There has been an undercurrent of tension; this is growing. Awarding the death penalty to Jadhav unsurprisingly led to an increase in tension. The Indo-Pak relations are at their lowest level in recent years.

According to Pakistan’s Inter-Services Press Relations (ISPR), Pakistan’s Army Chief General Qamar Ahmed Bajwa had ‘confirmed’ Jadhav’s death sentence on Monday after a Field General Court Martial (FGCM) found him guilty.  India, as expected, reacted sharply. Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar summoned Pakistan’s High Commissioner Abdul Basit and issued a demarche. He was told that India will consider it a “case of premeditated murder”. Cutting across party lines Indian Parliament condemned Pakistan for kangaroo court justice meted out to an Indian citizen. Sushma Swaraj, Minister for External Affairs, warned Pakistan of severe consequences and said India will go “out of way” to ensure justice to Jadhav. 

India and Pakistan, both, need to be sensitive whenever they deal with the citizens of the other country primarily because of lack of trust. Justice should not only be done but also seen to be done. Jadhav’s matter was heard by FGCM. The Army Court has its own limitations. First, the matter should have been heard in open court. The accused must be given full opportunity to defend himself with a competent lawyer.

The secrecy part of the Army court is basically against the principle of democracy. The sudden announcement of death penalty came as a surprise to not only Indian officials but even to Pakistani experts. Nobody can be sure whether it has to do anything with the missing of Pakistan’s Lt General (Retd) from Nepal’s Lumbini. Similarly, no one can be sure from where Jadhav was arrested. India’s contention is he was kidnapped from Iran and brought to Pakistan’s restive Balochistan. Pakistan says he was arrested from Balochistan. Gunter Mulack, former German Ambassador to Pakistan claimed that Jadhav was abducted by Taliban from Afghanistan-Balochistan border and later sold to ISI.

In case of Jadhav, unfortunately, even consular access was not granted, which is mandatory under the Agreement on Consular Access, 2008. The provision in the bilateral agreement is to provide consular access within 90 days of arrest. Indian High Commission had written 13 letters to Pakistan’s foreign ministry for access but in vain. The agreements need to be implemented in letter and spirit. Pakistan needs to immediately give access of Jadhav to Indian High Commission officials. All actions of India and Pakistan need to lead towards building trust. India should not have halted the release of 12 Pakistani prisoners, in protest.

The poor prisoners must have spent a couple of years in the Indian jails and when they were excited following the news of their release, suddenly they were told that they cannot be released. The positive part is India handed over two rescued Pakistani marines to Pakistan on Tuesday and Pakistan released 63 Indian fishermen.

The civilian leadership of both the countries needs to see that the tension does not escalate. Some back channel talks should be resumed on confidence building measures including Jadhav’s. Nobody will object if there is a retrial in the civil court. There should be transparency. Pakistan needs to see the issue of Jadhav from the humanitarian angle. Pakistan should assure India that Jadhav will not be hanged.

India and Pakistan need to be sensitive towards prisoners of each other’s country. Around 1,000 citizens of each other’s country are in each other’s prisons. There needs to be a humanitarian approach. Their human rights should not be violated. Both the countries must revive India-Pakistan Judicial Committee on Prisoners, set up by the two governments in 2007. The committee can look into the issues of prisoners. Human touch is needed and they need to see that most of the prisoners languishing in each others’ prisons are released and repatriated. Most of the prisoners are poor, semi-literate and they are either fishermen or people from the tribal and backward communities.

India and Pakistan must abolish death penalty. Pakistan’s late PM Benazir Bhutto was against the death sentence. Her father and former prime minister ZA Bhutto were hanged by Zia-ul-Haq regime. For many years, Pakistan did not execute capital punishment but after terrorists attacked Peshawar’s Army Public School in December 2014 killing more than 130 students, Pakistan resumed execution. More than 120 countries have either abolished or are not implementing capital punishment.

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