Kulbhushan as an opportunity
With the decision given by the Pakistan Field General Court Martial over the fate of Kulbushan Yadav, the latter has become the latest live wire between the two countries. The death sentence against his subversive and espionage activities, especially the link created between him and the high-profile China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, is in the offing. The CPEC is assuming an emotional dimension in Pakistan and any move seen to disrupt the gargantuan adventure invites harsh responses. The death sentence against the former Indian Navy commando is not final. The decision will be appealed in the higher army court. If the higher army court upholds the decision delivered by the lower court, Yadav will have the additional option of sending his appeal to the Army chief, and finally to the President of Pakistan for mercy. Given the atmosphere between the two countries, it is likely that he might be executed, for Pakistan to show that the threat of isolating the latter is just empty air and that they wish to puncture the balloon of diplomatic aggression. There is public pressure to do so. But there is quite a bit of time and opportunity with the accused spy to plead his case, with a defending lawyer, and win his way out of the clutches of a potential execution. However, Kulbushan can also be used to turn a much-needed page in the relationships between the two countries, which have witnessed a dangerous freeze of late.
It is not unusual for hostile countries to swap their spies. This happened between the USA and USSR, even during the height of the Cold War. There are memorable memoirs of some of these spies. For the two neighboring south Asian nations, there is a greater reason to play soft and convert their spies into tools of transformation in relationships. The execution of this man will further vitiate the atmosphere between the two countries. Between nations it is not difficult to find ways to avenge the perceived defeats at the level of diplomacy. India will find a way to undo the "wrong" in case of Kulbushan. Sometimes spies are invented on the neck of an innocent to return the "favor" of the foe. We know the business of the confessional videos, we are also aware of the power of circulation of such videos. That is not to doubt the information provided by Pakistan about the Indian spy. All that he has said on the video may be correct or if India is to be believed it may all be made up (as they do in case of Kashmir, manufacturing confessions out of nowhere); however, it is crucial that Pakistan seems to have achieved its objective of highlighting the foreign involvement against its territory and the grand business projects. That was a diplomatic win for the country, showcasing the subversion caused by the neighboring country. This was the first major intelligence achievement in the recent memory, when a major officer of India was arrested in the field of active subversion. With the open proclamations by Indian officials, including the Prime Minister, of tacit support to the insurgents in Balochistan, the arrest made significant news. In spite of the repeated denials, Pakistan has made a point of demonstrating the involvement of Indian spy agencies against the national interest of the country. Should he be executed, the same national interest will be more harmed than served, not to mention the damage to life it will cause in Kashmir.
If Kulbushan is spared the harsh judgment of the death penalty, there is scope for improvement in the relations. Recently, a murmur has started about the resumption of dialogue between the two countries. The latest news has thrown a dampener on the optimism generated about dialogue. The threats and public posturing have replaced sounds of peace. There is yet time to pause on the execution and breathe a fresh air into the murmurs of dialogue. His execution will send the positive vibes on a downhill, creating space for more subversion and more animosity. But if this man is given a due process of law and freed of the threat of execution, it is very much possible that leaders on either side will after a long interregnum return to the dialogue table. Instead of making him a bargaining chip for extorting concessions, he is better if used to create an opportunity for good relationship. The forgiving country will win greater international goodwill and sympathy and stand on higher moral ground in the case of the return of dialogue.
With our stay on a ground on which most of the violent political battles are fought between the two nations, there is no greater beneficiary of conciliation over Kulbushan than Kashmiris. We are witness to the implications of executions. The executions of Maqbool Bhat and Afzal Guru have sown seeds of deep hate and animosity towards the hanging country. Though morally, India has a weaker ground to seek the freedom of Kulbushan when it has a string of executions on its sleeve, yet the best beneficiary of Kulbushan's life and freedom are we here in this bedeviled land, looking with dismay at yet another summer of discontent and disillusionment. It is easy to rouse the masses into blood-thirsty beasts, and make them demand the heads of human beings, but it calls for a greater courage, for the longer term goals of sustainable peace to return people to the comfort of their homes. More than Pakistan or India, it is Kashmir which will benefit from the creation of good atmosphere between the countries. Because the two countries have almost always tried to defeat each other, not in Delhi or Sind but in the melancholy hills and plains of Kashmir.