Saturday, April 15, 2017

Kulbhushan Jadhav: A Case of Pakistani Subterfuge

Pakistan is a rogue state which will stoop to any level and take recourse to any form of deception in order to achieve its “unholy objectives”

An Indian naval officer arrested last year and charged with espionage and sabotage was sentenced to death Monday, the Pakistani military said, a decision that is likely to further strain relations between the two nations.

The condemned naval officer, Kulbhushan Jadhav, was arrested in March 2016 in Baluchistan, the restive province in South-West Pakistan, where a separatist insurgency has simmered for decades. While Jadhav was believed to be in Iran, running a cargo business or business to service dhows and ships from the port town of Chabahar, Pakistan claimed to have arrested him from the border town of Chaman in its province of Balochistan, bordering Afghanistan. Pakistani military officials described the capture of Mr. Jadhav as a major counterintelligence victory. He was accused of running a clandestine terror network within the province and of participating in various activities meant to destabilize the country.

Pakistan has claimed that Jadhav had infiltrated into Pakistan for “espionage and terror activities” and was in touch with Baloch separatists. They also claimed that Jadhav was travelling on a false passport, which identified him as Hussain Mubarak Patel, a resident of Powai in Mumbai. Mr. Jadhav is also known to spell his surname Yadav.

The Pakistani military said Mr. Jadhav was a “spy” who “was tried through Field General Court-Martial,” referring to a court-martial trial of heinous crimes, dedicated to cases involving foreign agents and spies.

The Pakistani military also asserted that Mr. Jadhav confessed before a magistrate that he was assigned by India’s spy agency, the Research and Analysis Wing, or RAW, “to plan and organize espionage and sabotage activities” in Baluchistan Province and Karachi, the southern port city that is the country’s commercial hub.

India disputes Pakistan’s accusations, which has often been the case in the testy relations between the two estranged, nuclear-armed neighbors. India gave a starkly different version of Mr. Jadhav’s arrest and profession.

Indian officials accused Pakistan of kidnapping Mr. Jadhav, whom they described as a former Navy officer, and said that repeated efforts for access to Mr. Jadhav were denied.

According to certain media reports, Kulbhushan Jadhav had reportedly approached Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) a number of times but his offers were turned down by the agency. According to The Indian Express report, between 2010 and 2012, Jadhav repeatedly had wanted to offer his service as a freelance intelligence operative but the organisation rejected the offer citing it will be ‘too much of a risk’.

In 2010, he had given proposal to R&AW, that his dhow, the Kaminda, can be used as a tool to gather intelligence on Pakistan’s port project at Gwadar. But “R&AW had little interest in Jadhav’s intelligence-gathering proposals,” the report said. However Anand Arni, the long-serving head of R&AW’s Pakistan Desk, who had retired in 2012, said “I will only repeat what I said on Monday which is that Jadhav was not an asset of the agency. Retired officers are never made assets, and we would certainly never send anyone on a clandestine mission with an Indian passport. You are free to believe or disbelieve me,” the report said.
In a videotape released by Pakistan’s military last year, Jadhav says he was recruited by R&AW in 2013, 10 years after setting up his base in Chabahar. However, there is no officer, past or present, bearing the name he cites as his handler — Joint Secretary Anil Kumar Gupta. In the videotape, Jadhav also claims he had contact with National Security Advisor Ajit Kumar Doval, who served as Director of the Intelligence Bureau in 2004-2005, before taking up his current assignment in 2014. There is no evidence, though of such contact, and intelligence insiders said it was profoundly unlikely an intelligence service’s asset would be granted an audience with the NSA.

It is extremely difficult to say with certainty whether the former naval officer was working for the Indian intelligence. It is plausible that Jadhav was conducting a legitimate business in Chabahar and was abducted from the Iran-Pak border by an extremist outfit called Jaishul Adil linked to Al Qaeda and thereafter sold to the ISI. Barring Pakistan’s assertion that he was involved in espionage, there is little evidence to show that he was involved in espionage.

Having got an Indian, and that too a former naval officer in their custody, Pakistan thought it may reap political dividends by accusing India of fomenting terrorism inside Pakistan. However, India has resisted this and till date has been exerting diplomatic pressure on Islamabad without resorting to a tit-for-tat. India made it known that it sought consular access to Jadhav on thirteen occasions and Pakistan refused to grant access to the prisoner; he was not permitted to legal representation and his sham trial was conducted in secret by a Field General Court-Martial. How New Delhi hopes to attain its objective of getting one of its citizens illegally detained by a rogue state with only diplomatic means is anybody’s guess. Pakistan is an entity which has scant respect for international law or any law for that matter; it does not give a damn for human rights of its own citizens much less of Indians accused of espionage in its custody. Alleged Indian spies like Ravindra Kaushik, Sarabjit Singh and many others have died in Pakistani jails in the past several decades. Expecting Pakistan to hand over Jadhav is like chasing a chimera.

If Jadhav ought not to meet the same fate as that of the legendary Israeli spy Elie Cohen, India needs to change track in dealing with Pakistan. India needs to pay Pakistan back in the same coin. One of Pakistani Army’s own needs to end up in Indian custody. Indian agencies have the wherewithal to make this happen. There already have been unconfirmed reports of the “disappearance” of a retired Pakistan Army Lieutenant Colonel Mohammad Habib Zahir, a Pakistani artillery officer who may have worked as an undercover ISI agent runner in Nepal from Nepal’s Lumbini on 6th April. It is also being reported that this Pak officer was involved in the abduction of Jadhav. If India is not thinking on these lines it needs to start building its capabilities to conduct snatch operations not only in South Asia but beyond. Instilling fear in Pak’s military establishment is the only way in which India and Indians can be kept safe. In the meanwhile Pakistani subterfuge continues.

No comments: