India-Pakistan spy case ruling due at world court

Danny KEMP
Secretary of Foreign Affairs of India Deepak Mittal (L) and Attorney General of Pakistan Anwar Mansoor Khan (R) greet each other at the International Court of Justice in The Hague earlier this year (AFP Photo/Robin van Lonkhuijsen)

The International Court of Justice will decide Wednesday on India's bid to remove an alleged spy from death row in Pakistan, in a case that has stoked tensions between the South Asian rivals.

Kulbhushan Sudhir Jadhav, a former Indian navy officer, was arrested in Pakistan's restive southwestern province of Baluchistan in March 2016 on charges of espionage.

The 48-year-old was then sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court in 2017, sparking outrage in India.

The Hague-based ICJ, which is the UN's top court, said it "will deliver, on Wednesday 17 July 2019, its Judgment in the Jadhav case (India v. Pakistan)" at 1300 GMT.

India insists that Jadhav was not a spy and says he was kidnapped in Pakistan. New Delhi is asking the ICJ to order Islamabad to annul the sentence.

India's lawyers told the court in February that it was a "farcical case" based on "malicious propaganda", while Pakistan's lawyers hit back by accusing Jadhav of "terrorism".

The last hearing coincided with a sharp spike in tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbours after a suicide bombing in restive Kashmir, although relations have since improved.

The ICJ was set up in 1946 to rule in disputes between countries.

The court has already intervened previously in the case, issuing an urgent order in 2017 telling Pakistan to stay Jadhav's execution while it dealt with the issue in more detail.

- 'Espionage, sabotage and terrorism' -

Jadhav was accused of working for the Indian intelligence services in Baluchistan, a province bordering Afghanistan, where Islamabad has long accused India of backing separatist rebels.

In February Pakistan's attorney general told the ICJ that Jadhav's "unlawful activities were directed at creating anarchy in Pakistan and particularly targeted the China-Pakistan corridor."

China and Pakistan are close allies and Beijing has funded a huge port at Gwadar on the Baluchistan coast.

After a closed trial he was sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court on April 10, 2017, on charges of "espionage, sabotage and terrorism".

New Delhi alleges that Islamabad violated the Vienna Convention by failing to provide him with consular access, as well as breaking human rights law.

India has also accused Pakistan of harassing Jadhav's family in 2017 during a meeting that was held in an "atmosphere of coercion".

It said Jadhav's conversation with his mother and wife was "tutored and designed to perpetuate the false narrative of his alleged activities in Pakistan."

The two neighbours routinely accuse one another of sending spies into their countries.

Jadhav joined India's prestigious National Defence Academy in 1987 and was commissioned as an engineer in the Indian Navy in 1991 before reportedly starting a business in Iran.