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The sentencing of Kulbhushan Jadhav – the Indian Navy officer who was working for India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and was arrested in March last year – to death by Field General Court Martial (FGCM) on Monday has raised a hornet’s nest across the border, as it was expected to.
 
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Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and National Security Adviser (retd) Gen Nasser Janjua have struck a sensible note on India in their separate remarks on Tuesday. Addressing an air force passing out parade, the prime minister said: “Cooperation rather than conflict and shared prosperity instead of suspicion are the hallmarks of our policy.” 
 
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Pakistan High Commissioner to India Abdul Basit says that Pakistan has enough evidence against Indian national Kulbhushan Jadhav.

 
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Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed’s recently concluded visit to India has reignited an old anti-India discourse in Bangladesh. The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), the country’s principal opposition party, has not only raised red flags against the MoUs and agreements signed during the visit but has stated that the visit ensured Bangladesh’s servility to India’s economic and security interests. This pathological anti-India stance is not new.
 
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 The award of death sentence by a military court and its subsequent approval by the Chief of Army Staff to Kulbhushan Yadav, the alleged Indian spy, has caused uproar in India while there is a mixed response to the news in Pakistan. Many Pakistanis are hailing the decision while a few are not in favour of executing a foreign spy unless concrete evidence is produced. After the announcement of the verdict, Indian authorities have responded angrily and strong backlash is expected sooner or later.  
 
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Thirteen months since the arrest was sensationally disclosed, the case of accused Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav has taken a darker turn. Convicted by a military tribunal for espionage and sabotage activities against Pakistan, Jadhav has been sentenced to death. Instantly, the already troubled India-Pakistan relationship has been plunged into deep uncertainty. Despite Jadhav’s conviction, there remain many unanswered questions. Start with the official Indian version of events and the many reports in the Indian media. Simply, the explanations offered by India are not credible. 
 
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Pakistan’s sudden announcement on Monday that former Indian naval officer Kulbhushan Jadhav has been sentenced to death by a Field General Court Martial is a development fraught with danger. It could lead to a rapid escalation in bilateral tensions that the region can ill afford. The trial, sentencing, and its confirmation by the Pakistan Army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, were carried out so secretly that the news took many in Pakistan as well by surprise. There are glaring holes in the procedures followed by Pakistan’s government and military in the investigation and trial of Mr. Jadhav. His recorded confession that was broadcast at a press conference within weeks of his arrest in March 2016 appeared to have been spliced. 
 
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The decision of a Pakistani military court to hand down death sentence to Indian national Kulbhushan Jadhav, captured by Pakistani authorities last year, is nothing but a ploy to counter New Delhi’s diplomatic pressure on Islamabad for nurturing terrorism. The secretive Pakistani military court – which has also come under criticism from Pakistan’s civil society – conducted a farcical, rushed trial whose proceedings are utterly opaque, and convicted Jadhav for espionage and subversive activities in Balochistan and Karachi. No details about Jadhav’s alleged criminality have been provided by Pakistani authorities. New Delhi was even denied consular access to Jadhav despite asking for it 13 times – a clear violation of Pakistan’s obligation under the Vienna Convention on consular relations.  
 
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Fifty, perhaps a hundred years from now, a historian may stumble across the truth of Kulbhushan Jadhav’s story hidden in an archive in New Delhi or Islamabad. Irrespective of whether the former Indian naval officer was, or was not, working for Indian intelligence, however, this much is clear: He is entitled to the due process of law — the foundational principle of civilised societies. The bizarre charade that has led Jadhav to death row in Pakistan is a parody of it — something that does Pakistan no service, discrediting its case before the international community. There is no country that can even pretend to be a democracy which tries alleged spies in closed military courts without competent legal representation. No democracy denies them access to consular officials — an internationally-recognised treaty right. The quality of Pakistan’s investigation of this case is evident from the fact that it did not even seem, through due legal process, to produce documentation germane to the Jadhav case. To date, it has not made public the specifics of the crimes he is accused of.
 
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India’s veteran politician and former deputy prime minister L.K. Advani surely must have been speaking from his heart when he solicited Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s help in improving relations between his country and Pakistan. Perhaps he was reminded of the times in the late 1990s when, in the aftermath of the detonation of nuclear bombs by Delhi and Islamabad, Sheikh Hasina offered to broker a peace deal, or mediate, between the two countries in an effort to have them come together. At the time, neither Nawaz Sharif nor Atal Behari Vajpayee made any response to her suggestion. One quite does not know how conditions would have turned out in South Asia had the Bangladesh leader been taken seriously by her counterparts in India and Pakistan. History, you see, is never a question of what might have been. Advani’s suggestion that Sheikh Hasina take the lead in healing the rift between Pakistan and India introduces a sense of irony into the entire political equation in the subcontinent.
 


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