Shahid M Amin
An Indian spy was arrested last month by Pakistani authorities when he entered Balochistan by crossing from Iran. His identity has since been established conclusively as being a serving officer of the Indian navy, Commander Kulbhushan Yadav, who was inducted in RAW, the Indian spy agency under serial number 41558. Holding Indian passport No. L9630722 under the assumed name Hussein Mubarak Patel, he had been living in the Iranian port city Chabahar since 2003 under a valid Iranian resident visa. His video confession was released on March 29, 2016, in a press conference held jointly by Information Minister Pervez Rashid and ISPR chief Lt Gen Asim Bajwa. Yadav said he was not under any duress and looked in good physical condition, smiling at times and was generally relaxed.
Yadav’s confessions are the most damning admission of RAW’s involvement in creating unrest in Balochistan. He disclosed that he had secretly crossed the border several times into Balochistan. His primary mission was to foment terrorism in Balochistan and Karachi. He established a network of operatives for terrorism in Pakistan, provided funds, and smuggled people. He had at one point worked at Gadani near Karachi under cover of a scrap dealer. He confessed having links with separatist, sectarian and terrorist groups in Pakistan. He disclosed that CPEC, the key project undertaken by China in Pakistan, was a primary target of his activities. The main objective was to destabilise Balochistan. He had links with Baloch militants, including Haji Baloch, a key operative providing financial and logistic support to banned outfits. Baloch had contacts with religious extremists in Karachi, including those involved in the Safoora Goth carnage in 2015.
For several years, Pakistan had been alleging that India was involved in spreading unrest in Balochistan. The matter was raised by then-Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2009. Last year, Pakistan handed over dossiers of evidence to India, and also informed the UN Secretary General, as well as the US and other governments, to prove India’s involvement in terrorist activities in Pakistan. Some of that evidence was indirect and inferential. However, the capture of a senior-ranking Indian spy and his confessions is by far the most damning evidence of Indian involvement in subversive activities. India had no option but to admit that Yadav had been an officer in the Indian Navy but claimed that he retired some years ago. India flatly denied that Yadav was either an operative of RAW or had been sent to carry out any subversive activities in Pakistan.
The Indian High Commissioner in Pakistan was summoned to the Foreign Office and a strong protest was lodged against the activities of RAW, as revealed by Commander Yadav. The Pakistan Foreign Secretary said the arrest proved “the illegal entry into Pakistan by a RAW officer and his involvement in subversive activities in Balochistan and Karachi.” Earlier, Balochistan Home Minister Mir Sarfaraz Bugti had stated that both RAW and NDS, the Afghan intelligence agency, were behind the funding and training of Baloch militants and secessionists. A Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman said that Pakistan had been drawing international community’s attention to Indian involvement in supporting terrorist and separatist activities in Pakistan. Revelations of Yadav had ‘vindicated’ Pakistan’s position on issue and exposed Indian designs against Pakistan and its active involvement in terrorism.
Very likely, the Yadav affair will bring new complications in Pakistan’s relations with India. This will also have some implication in relations with Iran. No doubt, Yadav’s capture and confession is a coup for our intelligence. India has been caught red-handed in unlawful, nefarious activities. India has for long been accusing Pakistan of sponsoring terrorism. But whether it was India’s Parliament in 2001 or Mumbai in 2008 or Pathankot in 2016, the alleged Pakistani involvement was by non-state actors, belonging to outlawed extremist groups in Pakistan. But here, the prime Indian intelligence agency has been caught involved in terrorist and subversive activities in Pakistan. This is state terrorism, which is seen by world as far more odious than terrorism by non-state actors.
Pakistan has, therefore, won a major propaganda victory. Indian allegations of terrorism ‘sponsored’ by Pakistan would now carry even less credibility. It should be the endeavour of Pakistani diplomacy to get as much mileage as possible by exposing India’s ugly face to the world. We have a rare chance to rub India’s nose in the dirt and put it on the defensive. One likely outcome of such exposure could be a diminution of Indian involvement in abetting secessionists in Balochistan and aiding terrorists in Karachi or elsewhere. However deplorable such activities by intelligence agencies are, they are a part of the way countries all over the world have been doing business for centuries. This spy issue needs to be seen in perspective and should not lead to an over-reaction in Pakistan. No country, including Pakistan, can be absolved from having carried out such activities at some point of time. Since independence, Pakistan and India have had a very difficult relationship, with wars and tensions and unpleasantness. But the bottom line is that neither has benefitted from acrimony nor resolved their disputes. Since both now possess nuclear capability, war is no longer an option for them. Dialogue and compromise is the only way forward. If they are able somehow to get over their national egos and obsessions, the way for regional cooperation would be open that would bring immense economic benefits to a region where millions still live below the poverty line.
It is a sign of maturity that the Pakistan Foreign Office has already stated that the Foreign Secretary-level talks should go ahead as scheduled. Another sign of maturity is the way the Pathankot incident has been handled by both sides. Instead of the sabre-rattling of the past and building up of war fever, there has been a degree of intelligence-sharing. Even in the Yadav affair, India’s reaction has been muted. The same applies to Iran. No doubt, we have reason to hope that Iran will cooperate in dismantling the RAW network in Iran. But our media should be careful in the expression of our concerns. Iran is an important neighbour with which we have historical ties that must not be disturbed.
— The writer served as Pakistan’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, the ex-Soviet Union, France, Nigeria and Libya.