Kulbhushan Jadhav trial at ICJ: We ought to ask this important question, 'Is he alive and well?'

While the jury (in this case the 11 judges of the International Court of Justice — ICJ) are out on the Indian plea to save its citizen from execution we seem to be missing the wood for the trees. It is not so much a matter of whose case is stronger or who is scoring more technical points with the panel but of first asking where Kulbhushan Jadhav is.

In all the brouhaha of reducing the threat to the life of this former naval commander to a cricket match between India’s advocate Harish Salve and Pakistan’s barrister Khawar Qureshi, this important aspect has gone amiss.

Where is Jadhav? What state — mentally or physically — is he in? These are the questions we should be asking. The ICJ might not be a criminal court but it surely must have the muscle to request Pakistan to provide adequate evidence of a prisoner's well-being.

 Kulbhushan Jadhav trial at ICJ: We ought to ask this important question, Is he alive and well?

File image of Kulbhushan Jadhav. PTI

Before asking the ICJ to pass any judgement, should it not be prudent to ask Pakistan to at least allow a neutral third party to visit Jadhav or call on that country to offer consular access? Think of it. Here we have devoted many bytes of information on the case without a clue on whether he is alive or dead. We seem more concerned with the bilateral treaty signed in 2008 for mutual consular access and then getting bogged down in the semantics of whether Jadhav is Indian or not.

It is a rather pointless debate since India has owned up to his nationality and that he was a former naval commander; there must be a whole file on him, so why is there so much intrigue over the obvious?

Barrister Khawar Qureshi said that Pakistan wanted peaceful relations with all its neighbours however, it also respected its sovereignty. He said that India was informed regarding Kulbhushan’s arrest. He further said that India had not presented its evidence in front of the International Court of Justice regarding the case of Kulbhushan Jhadav. He said that India’s stance was conflicting and riddled with misrepresentation.

Even while the judges are debating the merits of both sides, surely India should submit a caveat expressing fear that Jadhav may not be in a position to be shown to the public. And even if Pakistan does comply and produce a reasonably whole individual there is no defeat in that for us. There will be enormous relief for the family and India can then take it up from there.

The odds are that he is probably alive because there was an unreasonable amount of emphasis on the day of submissions with regard to asking for clemency from the army chief, the prime minister and the president of Pakistan. The advantage Pakistan has is that they have the man in their custody. We do not have a bargaining chip. It is necessary therefore to be pre-emptive and not react lamely after the fact.

What if they do not provide evidence of his being alive? What if on some technical point the ICJ comes up with a wishy-washy conclusion that places no pressure on Pakistan to do anything exceptional? Are we ready to up the stakes or we going to stand by and watch one of our own humiliated because in that ongoing humbling is reflected the discomfort of a billion of us.

Which why it is imperative that the demand to put Jadhav before the world should be ramped up now.

Updated Date: May 17, 2017 14:04:08 IST