By Stephanie van den Berg
THE HAGUE (Reuters) - The World Court will hear arguments on Monday in a dispute between India and Pakistan about a former Indian navy commander sentenced to death by Islamabad for allegedly being an intelligence agency spy.
The hearings come at a time of particularly strained relations between the nuclear-armed neighbours following a suicide attack on a convoy in Kashmir on Thursday that killed 44 Indian paramilitary policemen.
Pakistan has dismissed Indian accusations it was involved in the bombing, but Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi warned Islamabad on Friday to expect a strong response.
Pakistani authorities say Kulbhushan Sudhir Jadhav, 48, was arrested in March 2016 in Pakistan's Baluchistan province, the site of a long-running conflict between security forces and separatists. He was convicted of espionage and sabotage by a military court.
But India won an injunction from the World Court, formally known as the International Court of Justice, the following year. It ordered his execution stayed after Indian argued that Jadhav had been denied his right to diplomatic assistance under the 1963 Vienna Convention.
For four days next week, the two countries will argue their case in open court in The Hague. The court's rulings are final and cannot be appealed, but the U.N. body has no mechanism to enforce its decisions, which major powers have ignored in the past.
Jadhav’s death sentence provoked outrage in India and the case has added to the long-running tensions between the nations, with each accusing the other of supporting cross-border violence along the disputed Kashmir border.
India wants the ICJ to order Pakistan to annul the conviction, ensure the death sentence is not carried out, and release Jadhav.
Pakistan has argued that the ICJ is not a criminal appeals court and said the measures sought are not proportionate to the alleged wrongdoing on the part of Islamabad by not facilitating consular assistance to Jadhav.
India contests Pakistan's version of events and has said that Jadhav was not arrested in Pakistan, but kidnapped from Iran, where he was working after retiring from the navy.
India also dismissed Pakistani assertions that Jadhav confessed that he was an agent for the Indian intelligence service and had been hired with the intent to “destabilise and wage war against Pakistan”.
(Editing by Anthony Deutsch and Frances Kerry)