Prime Minister Modi scored a big diplomatic and political win when International Court of Justice unanimously accepted its plea to stop Pakistan from executing former Indian Navy commander Kulbhushan Jadhav.
Reading out the verdict of ICJ, its chief Ronny Abraham rejected Pakistan's argument that right to “consular access” granted under Vienna Convention does not apply to Jadhav because he was allegedly a spy. It also upheld India's contention that Vienna Convention on consular access overrides its agreement with Pakistan where the two countries had agreed not to insist on seeking consular access in matters concerning ‘security’ -- a category which is deemed to cover the cases of espionage Jadhav has been accused of.
“Pakistan shall take all measures to ensure that Jadhav is not hanged until a final decision by the court”, said Ronny Abraham. “The circumstances of his arrest are in dispute... India should have been given consular access as per Vienna Convention”.
Significantly, the international court was not ready to trust Pakistan on their statement they had no plan to hang Jadhav in a hurry. Abraham said that Pakistan had refrained from giving a commitment that the execution of the alleged Indian spy was not imminent.
The ruling, even if provisional, vindicated India's decision to approach the ICJ. The move had been criticised by Congress which argued that it ran contrary to India's emphasis on bilateralism in settling disputes with Pakistan.
The decision was risky, no doubt. But it also brought out Modi government's readiness to go to extraordinary lengths to protect India's interests -- a resolve which had earlier led him to authorize “surgical strikes” last year's terror attack on Uri camp of the Indian Army.
Jadhav, a former commander of Indian Navy, was running a business in Iran after taking voluntary retirement. He was snatched from international waters by Taliban terrorists who had been hired by Pakistan's ISI for fee. He was tortured in captivity and forced to confess his involvement in acts of terror and espionage to craft the pretext for a military court to sentence him to death. Pakistan denied several efforts of India to seek consular access to him.
During the last session of Parliament, foreign minister Sushma Swaraj had assured the two Houses that government would not spare any effort to ensure the safety of Jadhav. The approach to ICJ showed that Modi meant what he had promised.