Spying charge won’t derail India-Pakistan relations

Even the Pathankot incident has not derailed bilateral relations, says former R&AW chief.

Updated - November 17, 2021 04:42 am IST

Published - March 30, 2016 06:56 pm IST - NEW DELHI:

Hurling allegations and using rhetoric comes naturally to officialdom in India and Pakistan. It’s an art that the two countries have perfected down the decades.

But when >a former Indian Navy official is “arrested” in Pakistan and the Army goes to town making allegations about the Indian “role” in subversive activities in Pakistan the spying game gets raised to a new level.

“The arrest [of Kulbhushan Yadav] is good for domestic politics in Pakistan. The Government and the Army have been saying that R&AW [Research & Analysis Wing] is behind what is happening in Balochistan and Karachi. Now it seems their contentions are confirmed,” Kamal Siddiqi, editor of the Pakistani newspaper Express Tribune, told The Hindu.

Rana Bannerji, a retired R&AW officer with long experience of dealing with Pakistan, feels that this is an “outlandish attempt” by Pakistan to pin the blame on India’s external intelligence agency.

“It’s possible that some other [intelligence] agency may have lured him [Mr. Yadav],” Mr. Bannerji told this correspondent.

Given that Indian and Pakistani versions of the truth are vastly different, it’s quite likely that the full story of what the former Naval officer was doing and whether he was actually arrested in Pakistan may never be known.

It’s interesting that the Ministry of External Affairs has confirmed that Mr. Yadav is an Indian national without securing consular access to him. Given that forged documentation may have been used, this does raise questions.

Even in the case of the arrest of a fisherman, the Indian High Commission in Islamabad normally sends a query to the person’s village and only after receiving the police report would the issue of nationality be settled.

Former R&AW chief C.D. Sahay is of the opinion that Mr. Yadav’s arrest will not impact bilateral relations between India and Pakistan. “Even the > Pathankot incident has not derailed bilateral relations,” Mr. Sahay told this writer.

“I must say that the timing of the alleged revelations is interesting given that the Pakistani Joint Investigation Team probing the Pathankot attack is in India,” the former intelligence chief maintained.

Mr. Siddiqi, too, felt that the arrest of Mr. Yadav will not impact the bilateral relationship between India and Pakistan that revived after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s sudden decision to stop over in Lahore on December 25.

A former Indian diplomat who has worked in Pakistan, and preferred anonymity, conceded it was for the first time that Islamabad had been able to back up general allegations about Indian involvement in Balochistan.

“Till now they had nothing to show. But now they have Mr. Yadav. It remains to be seen how this will play out internationally,” the ex-diplomat stated.

There’s little doubt that the spying game has been on for a while but the “arrest” of a former Indian Navy officer in Pakistan is the first of its kind.

Usually, the two countries have used junior-level operatives for spying missions. The principle that you have to look out for yourself and the country will not own you in case of being caught has operated between the two countries.

It remains to be seen how Mr. Yadav’s case plays out.

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