New Delhi: The actions and statements of India and Pakistan continue to give mixed signals.
Even as the two neighbours cleared all pending diplomatic assignment visas, India said that Pakistan’s new Bill on providing the right of appeal to Kulbhushan Jadhav would not facilitate an effective review, and slammed Islamabad’s letter to the UN Security Council on Kashmir.
The Ministry of External Affairs confirmed that after two years, India and Pakistan have together cleared all pending assignment visas on June 16.
“These are routine administrative matters. I understand both sides cleared all pending assignment visas yesterday,” MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said at the weekly media briefing.
The assignment visas are issued for staff members in foreign missions, which is usually done on reciprocity.
India and Pakistan last year reduced their staff strength in their respective High Commissions by half following an incident of alleged involvement of Pakistani officials in “acts of espionage” in India.
India had asked Pakistan to reduce its staff at its High Commission in New Delhi and announced a reciprocal trimming of staff strength in the Indian High Commission in Islamabad following the incident.
The assignment visas are part of a series of steps – starting with a recommitment to ceasefire agreement – which has brought down the temperature in the relations between the South Asian rivals.
However, there are still numerous issues that bring out the inherent hostility in the relationship.
Pakistan’s National Assembly had last Thursday (June 10) passed the Review and Reconsideration Bill, 2020, that allowed a right to appeal to Kulbhushan Jadhav, a former Indian naval officer sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court.
A week later, India asserted that it had the same shortcomings as the earlier ordinance. “It does not create a machinery to facilitate effective review and reconsideration of Jadhav’s case, as mandated by the judgement of the International Court of Justice (ICJ),” said Bagchi.
Jadhav, a retired Indian Navy officer, was sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court on charges of espionage and terrorism in April 2017.
Subsequently, India approached the ICJ against Pakistan over denial of consular access to Jadhav and challenged the death sentence.
In July 2019, the ICJ ruled that Pakistan was in breach of its international obligations because of the failure to provide consular access to Jadhav.
The Hague-based ICJ asserted that Pakistan must undertake an “effective review and reconsideration” of the conviction and sentence of Jadhav and also grant consular access to India without further delay.
Bagchi said that the Bill invited the municipal courts in Pakistan to decide “whether or not any prejudice has been caused to Jadhav on account of the failure to provide consular access”.
“This is clearly a breach of the basic tenet that municipal courts cannot be the arbiter of whether a state has fulfilled its obligations in international law. Not only this, it further invites the municipal court to sit in appeal, as it were, over the judgement of the International Court of Justice,” asserted the MEA spokesperson.
He added that Pakistan has to take appropriate steps to address the Bill’s shortcomings and comply with the judgement of the ICJ in letter and spirit.
The Kashmir issue
Meanwhile, Pakistan wrote a letter to the United Nations Security Council claiming that India was contemplating further “illegal and unilateral measures” in Jammu and Kashmir. It did not, however, spell out the alleged new moves that India was proposing.
In the letter, Qureshi alleged that India was changing the demographic structure of Kashmir through the issuance of fake domicile certificates and other measures.
He urged the UN Security Council to call upon India to reverse its actions, including those initiated on and after August 5, 2019.
Pakistan has been making concerted efforts to internationalise the Kashmir issue. The neighbouring country stepped up an anti-India campaign after New Delhi announced in August 2019 its decision to withdraw the special powers of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcate the state into two union territories.
In an answer to a question, Bagchi asserted that the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India. “No amount of questioning can change the reality. Also, cross border terrorism is unacceptable, and no amount of justification can make it acceptable,” he stated.
(With PTI inputs)