Hot Takes: Kulbhushan Jadhav and India-Pakistan Relations

(Spy) Games Nations Play 

By: Kriti Shah

Earlier this week, Pakistan sentenced Indian national Kulbhushan Jadhav to death on charges of espionage and subversive activities in Pakistan. Jadhav, who was arrested in March 2016 in Balochistan, is accused of being an Indian intelligence officer in the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) who was tasked with spying and carrying out destabilizing activities in Balochistan and Karachi. While conceding that Jadhav is a former Indian naval officer, New Delhi has repeatedly denied that he had ties to any government or intelligence agency. His presence in Balochistan, his allegedly fake passport and proximity to India’s pet project at the Chabahar port in Iran have raised a number of questions. In Pakistan, his arrest was seen as the final nail in the proverbial coffin for Indian interference in the country. The circumstances surrounding Jadhav’s death sentence, particularly the use of a military court, underline the ongoing power struggle not only between Islamabad and New Delhi but also between the military and civilian establishments in Pakistan.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time an “Indian spy” has been caught by Pakistan. In 1999, Pakistan executed Sheikh Shamim, nearly ten years after he was arrested on charges of spying. Indian farmer Sarabjit Singh, who mistakenly strayed across the border in 1997 weeks after terror attacks struck Lahore and Faisalabad, languished in a Pakistani prison for over 16 years without clemency. He was killed in his prison cell by fellow inmates days after the civilian government made steps towards his release.  Other Indian nationals convicted and sentenced for spying have been luckier. Kashmir Singh returned to India in 2008 after having spent 35 years in a Pakistani prison. Jadhav can be sure that he will remain a pawn in the ongoing power struggle between Islamabad and New Delhi for a long time. His sentence is likely to remain a “your-move-now” incident, provoking India to respond, and not a final judgment that will lead to his death.

Jadhav was tried by the Field General Court Martial under Section 59 of the Pakistan Army Act, which makes a death sentence difficult to avoid. Amnesty International has opposed the death sentence, questioning the rationale behind Pakistan’s refusal to make the evidence against Jadhav public. Indeed, the details of Jadhav’s trial are murky, shrouded in secrecy. Given that his court proceedings were in a military court, the possibility for appeal is minimal to non-existent.  Military courts were set up in the aftermath of the December 2014 attack at the Army Public School in Peshawar to ensure “speedy justice” in terror-related cases. While many have supported the courts, believing they provide an “effective deterrent” against terrorism, others have criticized them for their lack of transparency and for violating fundamental rights.  Last month, President Mamnoon Hussain signed a bill extending the duration of the courts for another two years.

The quick trial and sentencing of Jadhav in a military court seems to be an attempt by Pakistan’s new Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Qamar Bajwa to flex his muscles and demonstrate his anti-India resolve. Sentencing Jadhav to death reassures radical anti-India Islamist parties in Pakistan of Bajwa’s unwavering commitment to the “Pakistani cause” and will likely bolster Bajwa’s status among such militant groups as well as some in the army. Additionally, in dealing the way it has with Jadhav, the Pakistan military-intelligence establishment has constricted the space left for the civilian government to deal with India. New Delhi has responded angrily to the sentencing, summoning Pakistani High Commissioner Abdul Basit and issuing a strongly worded demarche describing the military court proceedings as “farcical,” adding that killing Jadhav would amount to “premediated murder.” Jadhav’s conviction leaves Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif with little diplomatic maneuverability and few good options to work towards peace with his Indian counterpart. In sentencing the Indian “spy,” Bajwa is precariously testing Modi’s red-lines, waiting along with the rest of the world to see what Modi’s next step will be.


The Jadhav Case: Bad Omen for India-Pakistan Relations

By: Hamzah Rifaat

The Field General Court Martial’s April 10 decision to sentence Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav to death under the Pakistan Army Act is sure to exacerbate tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbors, whose relationship has been particularly fragile in recent months. This decision is a bad omen for Indo-Pak relations and prospects for peace and stability in the region.

Jadhav’s confession vindicates Pakistan’s stance that India’s Research and Analysis Wing is fomenting trouble in the country. However, India has repeatedly denied these charges and raised the issue that Jadhav, who is a naval officer, was denied consular access upon being captured.

Pakistan’s Advisor to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz, was quick to commend the decision whereas India’s Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj warned of “dire consequences” if the sentence is implemented. These statements cannot be treated as mere rhetoric considering recent bilateral history, which has been characterized by cross-border skirmishes, hijacking of soft power initiatives as well as incidents such as the Uri and Pathankot attacks. Additionally, the prospect that India could rethink its NFU policy and Pakistan’s repeated claims that any adventurism on India’s part will be met with a befitting response have further muddied the bilateral atmosphere. The trust deficit is expected to plunge further, and there is fear that this decision may be the tipping point after the hostility and suspicion of the last year or so.

The first casualty may be recent moves that indicated that the two sides may be ready to talk again, such as talks on the Indus Waters Treaty. But in the longer term, the point that lasting peace beneath the nuclear threshold in South Asia is rather elusive is just one of the few grim realities that scholars would have to contend with in the future.


The Death of a “Spy”

By: Meenakshi Sood

In a rare and shocking move by Pakistan, former Indian naval officer Kulbhushan Sudhir Jadhav, believed to be a spy involved in espionage and sabotage activities in Balochistan and Karachi, was sentenced to death by a military court. India was not informed about Jadhav’s trial and despite repeated requests, the Indian Embassy was denied consular access to him. He was tried under Section 59 of the Pakistan Army Act and Section 3 of the Official Secret Act of 1923. In response, Indian Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar summoned Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit to issue a demarche questioning the credibility and fairness of the proceedings. In a strongly worded statement, New Delhi warned Islamabad that if it were to go ahead with the sentencing, India would consider it a case of “premeditated murder.” Relations between the two have been on a downswing for years and this event risks further deterioration of Delhi-Islamabad ties.

Playing to Which Gallery?    

Pakistan’s defense minister Khawaja Asif said the death sentence should serve as a warning to those engaged in terrorism in Pakistan. Pakistan has consistently accused India of stirring up trouble in the restive province of Balochistan, where a long insurgency has undermined the legitimacy of the state. The province has also become the symbolic site where geopolitical rivalry between India and Pakistan is playing out. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the centerpiece of China’s ambitious One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative, aims to link the city of Gwadar in Balochistan with China’s northwestern region Xinjiang. By putting the blame squarely on India’s shoulders, Pakistan is trying to convince the world that its troubles in Balochistan are due to Indian interference, because New Delhi does not want Islamabad to prosper. Further, many argue that India is worried about the project’s potential to transform China’s standing in the global trade and would go to any length to sabotage the project. While there aren’t many takers for this argument, for Pakistan this is a moot point. Even when Pakistan released Jadhav’s confession, the global community remained skeptical of Pakistan’s claims. Yet it has gone ahead with the sentencing.

What Can We Expect? 

A country that tries its own citizens through secretive and highly questionable military courts cannot be expected to give a fair trial to an Indian “spy.” Thus, pleas for a fair trial will naturally be ignored. Contrary to what many in India believe, Jadhav’s case will not play out the way another spy case, that of Surjeet Singh, did. While his death sentence was commuted to life in prison and he was finally released after 31 years, the same generosity might not be extended to Jadhav. In the aftermath of the Peshawar attack, Pakistan reversed its moratorium on capital punishment and has since hanged many of its citizens. It would be hard to justify why an Indian spy gets to live while its own people are condemned to the gallows. In light of this, it is imperative for India to garner international support for Jadhav’s case so that Pakistan is compelled to commute his sentence to life in prison.

The game of chest-thumping and finger-pointing between the two neighbors is likely to continue until general elections in Pakistan in 2018. The present civilian government does not have enough credibility to make conciliatory gestures towards a more assertive India. Only a fresh start will give a chance to reset the current acrimony.


Indian Spy Episode: Pakistan Vindicated

By: Yasir Hussain

On Monday, Pakistan’s Field General Court Martial FGCM gave a death sentence to Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav, who was arrested in March 2016 on charges of espionage and sabotage. The Indian spy, tried under the Pakistan Army Act, had confessed to these crimes. India sharply reacted to this verdict by calling Jadhav’s death sentence “premeditated murder” and summoning Abdul Basit, Pakistan’s envoy to India. India also halted the release of 12 Pakistani prisoners who had been cleared to return. Such tit-for-tat interactions have yet again spiked tensions between India and Pakistan and indicate a decline in bilateral relations.

The capture of Jadhav was a crucial counterintelligence victory and an extraordinary catch for Pakistan, providing evidence to the international community of Indian subversive activities in Pakistan. For more than a decade, Pakistan has been in the limelight due to a number of terror incidents in which thousands of citizens and military personnel lost their lives. The international community largely blamed Pakistan-based insurgents for such attacks. On various global forums, India singled out Pakistan by calling it a terror-sponsoring state. At the G20 Summit, Indian Prime Minister Modi stated: “One single nation in South Asia is spreading agents of terror in countries of our region.” But the international community was oblivious of Indian involvement in terror activities in Pakistan.  However, Pakistan continued to raise serious concerns over such Indian activity, particularly in the chaotic Balochistan province. Jadhav’s arrest vindicated Pakistan’s long-maintained stance.

Developments on both sides indicate that Indo-Pak relations will move towards a downward trajectory. Jadhav’s death sentence has generated a heated debate in both the upper and lower houses of Parliament in India. Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP) Member of Parliament Subramanian Swamy stated, “If [Pakistan] hangs Jadhav then India must recognize Baluchistan as an independent country.”

Pakistan-India relations are already going through a rough patch, and giving the death sentence to Jadhav will certainly stir up controversy. However, as a sovereign state, Pakistan is free to implement its own rules and regulations that it has formulated to counter the ever-present threat of terrorism.

***

Image: Dawn News (screen grab)

Posted in , India, India-Pakistan Relations, Pakistan, Policy, Politics, Security

Yasir Hussain

Yasir Hussain

Yasir Hussain is SAV Visiting Fellow July 2017. He holds a masters degree in International Relations from Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad. He has a deep interest in global issues, particularly nuclear arms control and disarmament, nuclear safety and security, political economy, and conflict resolution. He tweets @yasirhunzai1.

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Kriti Shah

Kriti Shah

Kriti M. Shah is a Research Assistant under the Strategic Studies program at the Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi working on foreign policy and security issues in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Her research focuses on the Taliban, the TTP, other domestic terror groups, and Kabul and Islamabad's relationship with countries such as India, China, and the United States. She is a graduate of McGill University in Montreal, Canada.

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Meenakshi Sood

Meenakshi Sood

Meenakshi Sood is a Research Assistant at the Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS), New Delhi. She completed her MPhil in International Politics from the Centre for International Politics, Organization, and Disarmament, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. She has taught as guest faculty at Delhi University and worked with Ananta Aspen Centre. Her research interests include Indian foreign and defense policy, Asian security architecture, and political theory.

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Hamzah Rifaat

Hamzah Rifaat

Hamzah Rifaat is an anchor for PTV World, Pakistan's only English news channel. He is a gold medalist with a Master of Philosophy degree in the discipline of peace and conflict studies from the National Defense University in Islamabad. He holds a diploma in World Affairs and Professional Diplomacy from the Bandaranaike Diplomatic Training Institute in Colombo, Sri Lanka. He was a freelance writer and blogger for the Friday Times and received a CRDF scholarship to the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, where he studied nonproliferation and terrorism studies at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies. He was also a Graduate Editorial Assistant for Women's International Perspective, a global source for women's perspectives, based in Monterey. He has also represented Pakistan as a member of the CTBTO Youth Initiative 2016. His writings encompass political and internal security issues in Pakistan and he regularly contributes for The Diplomat Magazine. Hamzah is a former SAV Visiting Fellow (January 2016).

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September 18, 2017 - Views 0



One thought on “Hot Takes: Kulbhushan Jadhav and India-Pakistan Relations

  1. Yasir, Kriti, Meenakshi, Hamzah,
    Thank you for your essays.
    I readily admit that I do not know the facts of this case. It seems that I have plenty of company, as this was a closed judicial process. We only know what has been relayed to the press from official sources.
    From this long distance, I find the Jadhav case very curious. The pieces of the puzzle don’t seem to fit for me. I hope this case ends with an exchange of prisoners somewhere down the road. India and Pakistan have enough on their plates, as is.
    MK

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