A visa application by the mother of convicted Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav is the latest opportunity for India and Pakistan to back away from an increasingly confrontational stance against each other.
The reasons for Jadhav’s conviction and incarceration suggest that Pakistan may not be legally required to allow his mother to visit him or indeed grant her a visa at all, but it ought to be considered on humanitarian grounds. Jadhav has been sentenced to death and while there is some way to go yet before he exhausts his legal options, a meeting between mother and son would be humane and in no way undermine Pakistan’s case against him. A meeting between mother and son is very different to granting consular access, which is any case being litigated by India in the International Court of Justice. There is also little possibility of a media spectacle being created given that Jadhav is in military custody. Indeed, were Jadhav’s mother allowed to meet her incarcerated son, it may even have the benefit of indirectly demonstrating that the convicted spy is being treated according to the law and his safety is being taken care of inside a Pakistani prison.
Clearly, such a visit would not automatically reverse the growing chasm between India and Pakistan. India appears to be in no mood to talk to Pakistan and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s crackdown in India-held Kashmir shows no sign of abating. Meanwhile, Pakistan has been plunged into political uncertainty once again with the submission of the JIT report to the Supreme Court and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s decision to contest its conclusions while remaining in office. But small gestures can have a way of lowering the temperature in the overall relationship between India and Pakistan and opening the door to further sensible measures. Pakistan and India are caught in a trough in relations; the request by the spy’s mother is an opportunity for both sides to show that humanity can still shine through.
Published in Dawn, July 15th, 2017