On May 18, 2017, the order of provisional measures has been given by the International Court of Justice (hereinafter referred to as ICJ) in favor of India in Kulbhushan Jadhav case between India and Pakistan. Some scholars have expressed their concerns over the repercussions that India might have to face due to its actions of involving the ICJ in the Kulbhushan Jadhav case.
Their concerns are that India has played into Pakistan’s hands, and given it a handle to open up many other issues. It was confident that Pakistan would be approaching the ICJ to decide the Kashmir issue and it will then hardly lie in India’s mouth to object to the jurisdiction of ICJ since India cannot blow hot and cold together.
India’s traditional stance has been that all issues swith Pakistan would be resolved bilaterally and the change could give an opening to Pakistan to internationalize Kashmir issue. Criticizing India’s move to ICJ in Kulbhushan Jadhav case, Congress said, the best resolution (to issues) is bilateral at all times, no matter how recalcitrant Pakistan is. Senior CPI member D Raja said, “This decision has vindicated India’s stand in the international community. Pakistan will now have to reconsider its actions and decisions. According to some Pakistani columnists, the case, however, would benefit Pakistan more in the long run, since it is the smaller party. “India had now used a multilateral forum and it can’t back away from it tomorrow on similar grounds.”
Sushma Swaraj, Minister of External Affairs in India, assured that Pakistan could not take Kashmir issue to the ICJ and asserted that the matter must be resolved bilaterally as the Shimla Agreement and Lahore Declaration on Kashmir are very clear that Kashmir is a bilateral issue, which would only be settled by the two countries. Now, what would be the possibilities of ICJ’s jurisdiction if in future Pakistan takes the Kashmir issue to the ICJ?
Statute of ICJ and UN Charter: Possibilities of Jurisdiction
There are two ways, inter-alia, in ICJ statute under which Pakistan can take Kashmir issue to ICJ; one is Article 36 (1) and second is Article 36 (2). As far as Article 36 (2) is concerned, it will be very difficult or almost impossible for Pakistan to take India in ICJ on Kashmir as India has made a declaration on 18 September 1974 where it has kept itself being reserved from ICJ jurisdiction on two instances, inter-alia, i.e., first, that preventing the Court from entertaining cases involving two members of the Commonwealth (Article 2 of the declaration) and, second, its multilateral treaty reservation (Article 7 of the Declaration).
Under Article 36 (2) of the Statute, Pakistan will also not repeat the same mistakes which it has done earlier in 1999 in Aerial incident case where the Court finds that it has no jurisdiction to entertain the Application of Pakistan under Article 36, paragraph 2, of the Statute Since Pakistan “is . . . a member of the Commonwealth of Nations”, and now in 2017 in Kulbhushan Jadhav on the issue of provisional measures where the Court rejected Pakistan’s arguments relating to jurisdiction based on Article 36 (2), since India did not base this Court’s jurisdiction under Article 36 (2) but under Article 36 (1). If Pakistan goes to ICJ on Kashmir under Article 36 (1) which follows as “The jurisdiction of the Court comprises all cases which the parties refer to it and all matters specially provided for in the Charter of the United Nations or in treaties and conventions in force”. The compulsory jurisdiction of the Court under Article 36 (1) has three dimensions. Jurisdiction exists:
(a) In respect of all cases which parties refer to it,
(b) In terms of all matters specially provided for in the Charter of the United Nations, or
(c) In terms of all matters specially provided for in treaties and conventions in force.
So Pakistan may well approach ICJ jurisdiction under Article 36 (1) if either there is any treaty and convention in force exist between India and Pakistan on Kashmir issue or otherwise dealing with the issue, or under the provision of UN Charter.
Shimla Agreement between India and Pakistan on 2 July 1972 restricts the two countries, pending the final settlement of any of the problems between the two countries, neither side shall unilaterally alter the situation (Article 1 (ii)), and more particularly in case of Jammu and Kashmir, neither side shall seek to alter it unilaterally, irrespective of mutual differences and legal interpretations (Article 4 (ii)).
Under Lahore declaration on 21 February 1999, in its operative para, the two countries agreed to intensify their efforts to resolve all issues, including the issue of Jammu and Kashmir (Article 1), and shall intensify their composite and integrated dialogue process for an early and positive outcome of the agreed bilateral agenda (Article 2). Therefore, if the jurisdiction of the Court is founded on particular “treaties and conventions in force” or under the UN Charter under Article 36, paragraph 1, of its Statute, it becomes irrelevant to the Court to consider the objections to other possible bases of jurisdiction.
If Pakistan goes to ICJ against India’s violation of the principles and purposes of the Charter, as also envisaged and reiterated under Shimla agreement (Article (1)), pursuant to Article 36 (1) of the ICJ Statute, still Court will have no jurisdiction to entertain the Application on the basis of Article 36 (1) of the Statute as UN Charter contains no specific provision of itself conferring compulsory jurisdiction on the Court.
Kulbhushan Jadhav Case: The Test of Bilateralism
As Pakistan argued in Kulbhushan case that the alleged activities of commander Jadhav are well dealt with under Article VI “in case of arrest, detention or sentence made on political or security grounds, each side may examine the case on its merits”, of Agreement on Consular Access on 21 May 2008 signed between India and Pakistan (hereinafter the “2008 Agreement”).
Pakistan also argued that the jurisdiction under Vienna convention on consular relations 1963 (from now on Vienna Convention) is limited, and indeed it is further limited and qualified or supplemented by the 2008 agreement.
India acknowledges that the Parties have signed 2008 Agreement, but it maintains that this instrument does not restrict the Parties’ rights and obligations under Article 36, paragraph 1, of the Vienna Convention. In respect of the 2008 Agreement, Court concluded that it does not need to decide at this stage of the proceedings whether Article 73 of the Vienna Convention would permit a bilateral agreement to limit the rights contained in Article 36 of the Vienna Convention. It is sufficient at this point to note that the provisions of the 2008 Agreement do not impose expressly such a limitation.
Article 73 (2) of the Vienna Convention says that “Nothing in the present Convention shall preclude States from concluding international agreements confirming or supplementing or extending or amplifying the provisions thereof”. It means 2008 agreement can only confirm, supplement, extend or expand the Vienna convention but cannot limit it. On the other hand, Shimla agreement and Lahore declaration, prima facie, precludes any bilateral issue between India and Pakistan, including Jammu and Kashmir, to be decided outside bilaterally or at the multinational forum.
Last but not least, as if India has opened Pandora’s Box to Pakistan by making Jadhav issue from bilateral to multilateral, Pakistan may sure not hesitate to take India in ICJ not only on Kashmir but may also on many matters such as Kishan-Ganga power project under Indus Water Treaty 1960.