In the absence of making bilateral headway, India has requested the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to intervene in the Khulbushan Jadhav death sentence, citing violations of the Vienna Convention. While the court has held no hearings, nor has it passed any order, Indian publications are claiming that a “stay” has been issued by the international court. In reality, the court possesses no such powers to unilaterally issue binding orders – India’s stance is not only a misrepresentation of the facts in this case, but more importantly a historic reversal of its policy to not involve multilateral bodies into what it calls “bilateral disputes”, such as Kashmir. It seems irony is lost on the Indian government.

The ICJ is the judicial arm of the United Nations (UN) – a body whom India has roundly disparaged, whose resolutions on Kashmir it has publically ignored, and even whose human rights monitors it has barred from entering Kashmir. More specifically, in September 1974, India spelt out the matters over which it would not accept the jurisdiction of the ICJ; a wide gamut of issues including “disputes with the government of any state which is or has been a member of the Commonwealth of Nations” – in this case Pakistan. Even in the Indus Water Treaty – a bilateral agreement with a pre-defined arbitrator in World Bank – India has preferred to go it alone. At best this request is opportunist, and at worst hypocritical, for India to seek the UN’s intervention now, having defied it for so many years.

This request is also a double-edged one; if India accepts the jurisdiction of the ICJ in this matter will it also accept jurisdiction if Pakistan files counter-cases for human rights violations under the Geneva Convention in Kashmir? If it has strayed from its policy of bilateral dispute resolution there are a host of disputes that need to be resolved between the two countries, all of them should be brought to the table too.

In the end however, the jurisdiction of the ICJ is a voluntary one – both state parties have to agree to being tried before a case can go forward. If Pakistan does not cooperate, the Indian case will be little more than a PR exercise. While Pakistan has repeatedly and consistently maintained that bilateral issues should be resolved by international multilaterals intervention, it is India’s refusal which has kept matters from progressing. Perhaps it is time it feels what it is like being on the end of its own policy of non-cooperation.