India-Pakistan Spin Out 'Spy' Stories Le Carre Style
NEW DELHI: “Kaisi mili hai yeh kamyabi, itni bari kamyabi” (how did you get this big success?) were the opening remarks of a Pakistan Television anchor as he sought to question an official about the arrest of the Indian naval officer identified as Kulbhushan Yadav.
And this seems to be the sentiment pouring out across Pakistan, with the media of course leading the pack. An Indian Naval officer---still serving as the Pakistanis claim, retired as India has said---was caught with a fake passport, under a Muslim name in Balochistan. India has confirmed that he was with the Navy, that he does indeed exist, but that he has nothing to do with the external affairs intelligence agency R&AW while Pakistan of course, has been broadcasting this last fact over its propaganda machinery.
Pakistan defence related sites claim that Yadav will be tried as a terrorist and not a spy. These sites insist that Yadav was in Balochistan to spy for the Indian government, that he was in touch with separatist Baloch groups, that he was working for---and this is a new addition---not just the separation of Balochistan from Pakistan, but also Karachi. This claim is clearly to link the sectarian violence in the city and in Sindh to Indian ‘interference’. Karachi is largely home to those who had crossed over from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, and beat back Punjabi prejudice in Pakistan to find their feet in the long years since Partition.
The stories will of course, differ. India has sought consular access to Yadav that will not be given. But in bilateral relations, between two countries that are admittedly hostile, the arrest of capture of an operative does help in confirming perceptions no matter what the contrary view is. India was able to beat Pakistan with the arrest of Kasab after the terror attacks on Mumbai, that confirmed what New Delhi had been saying for long about Pakistan involvement in terrorism in India, and of it nurturing and promoting terror groups with the specific purpose of attacking India.
Pakistan has for long been accusing India of interfering in Balochistan, of supporting the secessionist groups with funds and advise, of nurturing Baloch rebels in exile in London and other places. In fact in recent years it has maintained that India is using its consulates in Afghanistan to interfere not just in that country, but to send in operatives into Balochistan. This has been stoutly denied by India through the years, although Baluchistan suddenly emerged as a shared point to be discussed in the famous Sharm el-Sheikh resolution signed by then Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and Yousuf Raza Gilani at the Egyptian resort in 2009. The joint statement contained for the very first time, what was seen as a highly significant mention by some Indian experts, “Prime Minister Gilani mentioned that Pakistan has some information on threats in Balochistan and other areas.”
This was almost a recognition by the government of India of Pakistani claims of ‘interference’ in Balochistan. However, little came of this in subsequent years with the allegations and counters continuing. Pakistan has in recent years picked up the pace of allegations against India on Balochistan, taking the issue to the international community at different fora.
In Pakistan there is widespread belief of Indian involvement in Balochistan. The political and strategic community in particular, believes this propaganda which goes far beyond just interference into claims of active action to “dismember” Pakistan. The arrest of Yadav gives a face to this allegation, with Islamabad now also having a human face as it were to match its words. As a senior analyst here said, “it is as if they have got a body of evidence.” They have, as indeed the interrogation of Yadav will produce documents of “evidence” ---like Kasab, like Hailey---that will be disseminated widely by the Pakistan government to buttress its claims about Indian interference.
The first question that needs to be answered is of course what a Naval---serving or retired barely counts---officer was doing in Balochistan with a Muslim passport? Narratives will be pieced together by both sides of course to answer this, with the Indian side of the story reportedly hovering around Yadav’s possible involvement with a Iranian woman because of whom he had changed his passport. He was in Iran before being found in Balochistan. And that he was probably “kidnapped”, sources said, by the Pakistanis from Iran to build this big story against India. Another story again by “sources” speaks of Yadav of being in Balochistan on business!
All said and done, it is unlikely that the full truth will ever be known. As for perceptions, both India and Pakistan will have their own, and will seek to convince the international community accordingly. Presently, given past experience, at this moment, it is advantage Pakistan as it has a living body that it can source all further claims of Indian “ involvement” to. Needless to say, if Yadav is actually an Indian intelligence officer then his arrest is a major setback for New Delhi that now needs to come up with a convincing counter to his arrest, and his presence in Balochistan.