The conviction to death of Kulbhushan Jadhav through a Field General Court Martial came as a surprise to the majority of Pakistanis. But not unexpected though as he, according to officials, was an extremely prized catch that had to be put through FGCM.
The Indian government's attitude had stiffened immediately after the news of Kulbhushan Jadhav's arrest became public nearly a year ago. Its attempts to "isolate" and run-down Pakistan on international fora such as the BRICS summit, the G-20 summit or the Heart of Asia in December were a few striking examples of the ascendant mood in New Delhi.
Rejection by Pakistan of 13 requests between 25 March 2016 and 31 March 2017 for consular access to Jadhav contributed in their own way to New Delhi's strident attitude. The warning in the Indian demarche, handed to High Commissioner Abdul Basit, (If this sentence against an Indian citizen, awarded without observing basic norms of law and justice, is carried out, the Government and people of India will regard it as a case of premeditated murder) resonates the same sentiment. In fact some prominent Indians have gone a step further; "We need to warn Pakistan, if they hang Jadhav, there will be dire consequences," Subramanian Swamy, senior BJP leader. Shekhar Gupta, a writer and anchor, was equally ballistic; if Pak execute Jadhav, an acknowledged Navy veteran, there will be consequences. This Indian government will surely retaliate, wrote Gupta, whom the Ismaili spiritual leader Agha Khan had recently snubbed for unnecessarily dragging Pakistan's name in cases of terrorism elsewhere.
Such warnings do entail a question: Will Jadhav be the ultimate circuit breaker or become part of a grand bargain to prevent the Indo-Pakistan relations from a complete break-down or even armed conflict?
Regardless of which way this case eventually settles down, the current moods in New Delhi and Islamabad deliver ample evidence that the hard-talk accompanied by bitter acrimony is likely to continue for quite some time. India has questioned Jadhav's conviction quoting dubious circumstances, but history is replete with examples both of straight executions of spies as well as trade-offs between the USA, UK, Germany and the former Soviet Union. The US didn't spare an Israeli agent either.
New Delhi will certainly ratchet up pressure to prevent any harm to Jadhav. It has a voice in the world that is heard - even if it may be on wrong side of the fence. Through strategic communication offensive, New Delhi will not only bring pressure upon Pakistan but also sully its image across the globe in whatever way it can.
Should Pakistan should be mindful of international pressure at all if it has dealt with a foreign spy under the Army Act for destabilizing the country?
In the name of national security, Sri Lanka, a tiny country, cracked down on Tamil Tigers in May 2009 and the three-pronged operation left several thousand killed. Until today, it has successfully turned down demands for international investigation into the consequences of the final assault. Pakistan's civil-military elites should deal with Jadhav in the same collective way - regardless of the international noises. The issue is likely to strain the relations with India but Islamabad - having conveyed a stern matter-of-fact message - can also lean on long-time friends such as China for advice on how to deal with the fallout of Jadhav's conviction.
Countering the Indian communication's offensive will represent a formidable challenge for a country, which is good in reaction but tardy in proactive thinking. We are in for another round of vicious acrimony with India.
The author is Editor, Strategic Affairs