Another low point was reached in Pakistan-India relations on Saturday when New Delhi put off bilateral talks with Islamabad following the handing down of the death sentence to its spy Kulbhushan Jadhav. For starters, the move will effectively cancel two key engagements this month between officials of the nuclear-armed neighbours — the first of these is the April 17 meeting of the directors general of the Pakistan Maritime Security Agency and the Indian Coast Guard, and the second is the critical water secretary-level talks that Pakistan had recommended be held at the end of April.
The maritime dialogue between the two sides was supposed to focus on the frequent arrest of fishermen, the impounding of boats and possible efforts to curb smuggling. The fact that New Delhi has not set a fresh date for either of the two meetings means that the whole process stands virtually scrapped. In the first place, New Delhi was not at all forthcoming about the water secretary-level talks — baulking at communicating whether or not it was ready to accept the dates proposed by Islamabad.
By making Jadhav one of the pivots of their strategy and signalling readiness to approach international forums and world leaders about his death sentence as Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Ram Madhav has indicated, New Delhi is opening up its own deadly can of worms. Jadhav is far from being innocent. His litany of crimes include sponsoring and directing grenade and improvised explosive device attacks in Gwadar and Turbat, mounting assaults on the radar station and civilian boats in Jiwani district and providing cash to militants so that they could carry out acts of sabotage in Balochistan. A senior aide to the PM, Sartaj Aziz, has also lifted the lid on Jadhav’s role in more sinister affairs — apparently he bankrolled the attacks on Shia pilgrims and Hazaras in Quetta. To question the sentence and fairness of Jadhav’s trial and gloss over the serious nature of his crimes is unacceptable.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 16th, 2017.