The Big Story: Fueling fire
The year 2014 seems like aeons ago now. Back then Prime Minister Narendra Modi, fresh off his massive electoral victory, invited Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif along with other heads of state from the subcontinent to attend his swearing-in ceremony. In December 2015, things went even further, with Modi making an unscheduled stop in Lahore, the first visit by an Indian prime minister to Pakistan in more than a decade. The promise of those events, and the hope that an electorally stronger Modi would be better placed to deal with Pakistan, feels like ancient history now.
On Monday, Pakistani military authorities announced that they had convicted Kulbhushan Jadhav, an Indian man who Islamabad claims is an agent of India’s Research and Analysis Wing, and sentenced him to death after a closed-door court martial. India responded by pointing out that Pakistan had offered no evidence, beyond a questionable confession, and had not provided consular access. New Delhi went further, saying if any execution were to actually take place it would constitute “premeditated murder”.
Analysts are clear that the death sentence is a Pakistani provocation. Spies are usually dealt with in the same cloak-and-dagger manner that they operate in. Turning the matter into a quasi-legal proceeding, albeit behind closed doors, and publishing a press release suggests Islamabad wants to send a message. Some have brought up India’s recent actions that have annoyed Pakistan’s biggest ally, China. Those in the know also point to a retired Pakistani Army officer who disappeared in Nepal last week, which rumour mongers in Islamabad would have people believe was a RAW plot.
India and Pakistan were already on edge ever since the Uri attacks in September 2016, which were soon followed up by surgical strikes a few days later – a much-publicised military action by Indian forces, with Delhi claiming it had attacked “launching pads” of militants across the Line of Control. Since then, relations have remained tense, even as the rest of the world around India and Pakistan seems to have become even more volatile.
It may be some time before we know what is actually happening here, and what Pakistan is trying to achieve. In peacetime, spies that have been caught tend to be used for leverage and often become part of quiet deals that are not publicised. That Islamabad chose to go public with its treatment of Jadhav makes it clear that this is a public relations exercise.
But provoking India at at time when local politicians have anyhow been fanning jingoistic flames, while other parts of the world become even more tense, is deeply irresponsible. New Delhi now has no choice but to be vocal and emphatic in its response. Hopefully the clear dangers of going down this path – including what it means for future treatment of Pakistani spies in India – will become apparent to Islamabad.
The Big Scroll
- Manoj Joshi writes that the death sentence to Jadhav is a clear provocation, something that should not be happening when two countries are not at war.
- Last year, Cyril Almeida wrote that the capture of Jadhav was aimed at a domestic Pakistani audience to prove to the public that the armed forces are still competent.
- This was the video that Pakistan released after it claimed to have captured Jadhav.
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Punditry & picks
- Arvind P. Datar in the Indian Express, citing the dangers of judicial bans that replace existing government policy, says that the Supreme Court’s highway-alcohol decision should have been left to individual states to tackle.
- Prasar Bharati does not need Rs 75 crore for a new propaganda arm aimed at creating an Indian BBC or Al Jazeera, writes Vidya Subramanian in the Hindustan Times, saying it should focus on how to spread awareness within India first.
- Mihir S Sharma in Bloomberg points out that the Indian government seems to have lost any enthusiasm or faith it might have had for multilateral free trade agreements.
- Never mind a broader conversation about politicisation or deep manipulation, even the basic collection techniques through which India’s data is put together has come under scrutiny, writes Jessica Seddon in Mint.
- Snigdha Poonam and Samarth Bansal in the Hindustan Times tell the story of an Indian call centre that runs a massive tech support scam.
- An extraordinary student movement is taking aim at the elitism of India’s legal education, and beginning to change the way law works in the country, writes Kavitha Rao in the Guardian.
Priyanka Vora explains why India’s pregnant women are missing vital ultrasound tests: doctors simply are not mentioning the procedure.
“Despite going to a government hospital, the Mumbai woman did not receive adequate ante-natal care. Healthcare providers including doctors and nurses are expected to give pregnant women information about check-ups and necessary tests.
Doctors said that the 18th week ultrasound which is also referred as an anomaly scan is the most important investigation, especially in India, since abortions are allowed only up to 20 weeks. An abortion is permitted beyond 20 weeks, only when “termination of such pregnancy is immediately necessary to save the life of the pregnant woman.”
The ultrasound procedure done between 18th and 19th week of conception can reveal such abnormalities that can help a woman or a panel of doctors decide whether a termination of pregnancy is advisable. Despite this, doctors said that many women visiting both private and public hospital skip the vital procedure. In most cases, women say that they were not aware.”