The International Court of Justice in The Hague held its first session of hearings on the case between India and Pakistan pertaining to the trial and conviction of Indian National Kulbhushan Jadhav. While the case had always been of significance considering it involved matters of espionage and terrorism, the current climate of India-Pakistan hostility has citizens of both countries watching the case with baited breath, holding on to hopes of victory for their respective countries.

The facts appear simple. Kulbhushan Jadhav is a serving officer of the Indian Navy who was found in possession of materials which evidenced his involvement in executing terrorist attacks in Balochistan, materials which included a validly issued Indian passport with a false Muslim identity, and brochures inciting violence against the Pakistan State. Pakistan put Jadhav on trial through its military courts by way of the 21st amendment to the constitution where he was convicted and sentenced to death for espionage and terrorism. India complains that Pakistan did not grant consular access during the trial under its international obligations mandated in the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. Pakistan insists that India comes with unclean hands since Jadhav is a spy and espionage is an exception to the multinational convention. The question thus is whether Pakistan was required to provide consular access in cases where its national security is threatened.

However, while the case is one of the legal principles relating to consular access, it is impossible to view the case without analysing the political circumstances that surround Pakistan and India’s circumstances, and it is hoped that the World Court takes notice of it. Pakistan has pointed out in its Counter-Memorial of India’s violations at the Line of Control (LOC) which result in loss of thousands of Pakistani lives. The recent occurring of Pakistani nationals being forced to leave India, and Indian politicians calling for Pakistani blood, strengthens Pakistan’s argument that it suffers a severe threat from its neighbour; thus we have to take cases involving national security seriously.

So far the first few days have only been a reiteration of the country’s positions and it is difficult to predict the leaning of the Court. It will be interesting to see how the proceedings in the courtroom will affect the national mood in the countries. We can only hope that sanity and civility will prevail both in the Court and outside- unfortunately the Indian External Affairs Minister’s refusal to shake Pakistani attorney general’s hand is an apt reflection of the behaviour of the countries outside the courtroom.