NEW DELHI: It could not get more surreal than this, even in the vexed relations between India and Pakistan. A Pakistan Joint Investigation Team investigating the Pathankot terror attack at the Indian Air Force base, even as an Indian Naval officer was being paraded before television channels in Pakistan as a “spy” leading “subversive” operations in Balochistan. And yet both narratives continued, with New Delhi and Islamabad ensuring that the one did not step on to the other in the course of investigations and allegations.

The script of the Pakistan-India spy thriller seems to be following an unchartered course with Iran now being dragged in as a third party amidst loud protest. The Pakistan media, fed of course by ‘sources’ has been targeting Iran for hosting the alleged spy Kulbhushan Yadav, that has led to an angry “stop it” response from the Iranian mission in Islamabad.

Both the Indian and the Pakistan media are following their respective establishment’s script, the first by keeping more or less silent on the arrest of Yadav in Balochistan, and the second by analysing every comma and semi-colon into screaming headlines. The target, at the moment, seems to be Iran for Pakistan, as Yadav was said to have been at Chabahar port earlier where according to New Delhi he was running a business, and according to Islamabad he was representing Indian intelligence under the cover of business. Pakistan has been so agitated about this, that it raised the issue with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during his recent visit to Pakistan in what was seen as a breach of protocol.

According to a rather interesting news report in Pakistan’s newspaper The News, its Ministry of Interior has now discovered a second ‘spy’ and dashed off an official letter to the Iranian Ambassador in Islamabad Mehdi Honardoost. This letter, The News quoting sources said points to the presence of one Rakesh alias Rizwan who was assisting “naval officer” Kulbhushan Yadav in Chabahar. The letter reportedly states, ““He (Yadav) is assisted by the RAW Sub Inspector Rakesh alias Rizwan as one of the key operatives. Sub-Inspector Rakesh is also working undercover as a businessman dealing in jewellery. Their shop address was Shop No709, Abresham Mall, Chabahar, Iran.

“Commander Kulbhushan is in possession of a valid Indian passport with a valid Iranian visa. He crossed over to Mashkhel, Balochistan, Pakistan from Saravan, Iran, with some militants from Balochistan.

“The RAW agent has made startling revelations about the existence of a potent RAW network operating against Pakistan from the Iranian soil.“ The letter, according to the Pakistan media, urges the top leadership of Iran to ensure that “Indian spies” are not able to cross into Pakistan through its borders. Iran has hotly disputed these allegations, reserving its chagrin for the moment to the Pakistan media.

Meanwhile, the opposition and more specifically the Congress has stepped up the pressure on the government for allowing the Pakistan JIT into its Air Force base in Pathankot. The Congress has fielded several spokespersons, the last being former Minister Kapil Sibal to question the BJP and the government for allowing the Pakistan team, including an official from its intelligence wing ISI, into the base and giving it all access. The controversy had the Director General, National Investigation Agency, making the following statement today where it confirmed full cooperation to the team, access to the scene of the crime, to 16 witnesses, voice samples and a request of a reciprocal visit by the NIA officials to Pakistan:

“As you are aware, the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) of Pakistan arrived in India on 27 March, 2016 and for the last 5 days, interacted on the Pathankot case with NIA officials. On 29 March, they visited the scene of crime in Pathankot and were shown locations where the terrorists infiltrated and subsequently hid, as well as where the encounter took place. They also visited the spot where Ikagar Singh's vehicle was snatched, where he was murdered, and where the terrorists hijacked the SUV Mahindra of SP Salwinder Singh. The route taken by the terrorists was also shown to the JIT. These are part of the standard legal procedure of investigation followed in both nations.

  • The NIA briefed the JIT on investigations in the case of the terror attack perpetrated by the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) on January 2, 2016 in Pathankot. The Pakistan JIT, in turn, shared with NIA the results of investigations carried out by them so far in Pakistan. On JIT's request, the NIA provided certified copies of postmortem reports, MLRs, CDRs, DNA reports and the Seizure Memo of articles from the scene of crime. The Pakistan JIT was given access to 16 witnesses including SP Salwinder Singh, his cook, Rajesh Verma and some formal witnesses as per agreed terms of reference and extant legal provisions. The JIT informed us that they were collecting admissible evidence outside Pakistan under the provision of Section 188 of the CrPC of Pakistan, that will legally enable them to be used in prosecution.
  • NIA sought voice samples of some senior office bearers of JeM, and DNA sample of the mother of slain terrorist Nasir Hussain. JIT was also requested to verify the various articles seized from the terrorists including arms and ammunition as mentioned in the Letter Rogatory sent earlier to Pakistan. The NIA shared with JIT the identity and the address of the 4 terrorists and requested that the JIT confirm the same. NIA presented the JIT with concrete evidence against the office bearers of JeM who conspired in the attack and the handlers of the terrorists who facilitated and guided them.
  • The interaction with JIT was held in accordance with terms of reference mutually agreed on the basis of reciprocity. The Pakistan JIT assured us of their full cooperation and promised to execute the LR which has been received by them.
  • The Pakistan JIT was informed that a team of NIA officials would like to visit Pakistan to carry forward the investigation in the Pathankot attack.