ISLAMABAD/QUETTA: Indian High Commissioner Gautam Bambawale was summoned to the Foreign Office on Friday to receive a demarche over the arrest of an Indian intelligence operative from Balochistan.
Identified as Kulbhushan Yadav, the man has been accused of being involved in subversive activities.
“The Indian High Commissioner was summoned by the Foreign Secretary (Aizaz Chaudhry) today and through a demarche conveyed our protest and deep concern on the illegal entry into Pakistan by a RAW officer and his involvement in subversive activities in Balochistan and Karachi,” the FO said in a statement.
Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said in a separate statement that the arrest had proven Pakistan’s claims about involvement of foreign hand in unrest in Balochistan and that it was a very serious matter.
The arrest of the RAW agent in Chaman (Balochistan) was announced by security agencies on Thursday. Yadav is said to be originally from Indian Navy, where he served as a commissioned officer. In Pakistan, he operated under fake names and was alleged to have been working with separatist and sectarian organisations.
The government has long been accusing Indian intelligence agency RAW of sponsoring terrorism in Karachi, Fata and Balochistan.
At a corps commanders meeting in May last year, military’s top brass had unprecedentedly pointed fingers directly at RAW for “whipping up terrorism in Pakistan”.
However, Yadav’s arrest is probably one of the rare occasions where they have got something to show the Indian connection. All other proofs made public in the past were indirect.
The Indian External Affairs Ministry accepted that the arrested man formerly worked for Indian Navy and said its high commission in Islamabad was seeking consular access to him.
“The said individual has no link with Government since his premature retirement from Indian Navy. We have sought consular access to him,” Indian ministry’s spokesman Vikas Swarup said.
“India has no interest in interfering in internal matters of any country and firmly believes that a stable and peaceful Pakistan is in the interest of all in the region,” he added.
In Quetta, Commander of Southern Command Lt Gen Aamir Riaz, while speaking at a Yaum-i-Shuhada ceremony, said that the arrest of the Indian intelligence operative had proven that RAW was involved in funding and supporting militants in Balochistan.
He criticised separatist leaders living in exile in Britain and Switzerland, saying that they were agents of spy agencies of (Pakistan’s) enemies. He said they were being supported by foreign hostile agencies for carrying out terrorism in Balochistan.
The commander said they (insurgent leaders living in exile) would face failure and defeat.
IMPLICATIONS: TV channels in Pakistan were seeing vintage red in the spy episode much like the cold war days between Soviet Union and the United States and analysts appearing in talk shows questioned the rapprochement with India and conjured up all sorts of possible outcomes.
The spy’s arrest was made public at a time when India and Pakistan were taking their first steps towards the start of dialogue, under the new format, after the Pathankot upset.
Pakistani investigators are scheduled to travel to India on Sunday (March 27) for collecting proofs about Delhi’s allegations that Pathankot attack was planned and initiated from Pakistan by Jaish-i-Muhammad terrorists.
A group of five investigators got their visas for the trip from Indian High Commission in Islamabad on Friday.
Pakistan, meanwhile, earlier this month in a rare intelligence sharing alerted Delhi about possible attacks by terrorists, who were feared to have sneaked into India from Pakistan.
Moreover, there were indications that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif would meet his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi in Washington later this month when the two go there for attending the Nuclear Security Summit.
Would all this be upset because of the RAW spy’s arrest? This was the question almost everyone was guessing.
THE IRAN CONNECTION: The arrest also coincided with the visit of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to Islamabad.
The detained spy is claimed to have entered Pakistan via Iran and was also reportedly having valid Iranian visa.
Pakistan has always had reservations about India’s close ties with Iran, particularly their Chabahar Port cooperation.
Though, not many were paying attention to the timing of disclosure about Yadav’s arrest with President Rouhani’s trip, but the interior minister tipped about that possibility as well.
“We will ask Iran for assistance in probing the matter,” Chaudhry Nisar said.
A disclosure by a security official that the spy had been active in the area since 2013 and had been based in Chabahar left little doubt that the timing of the incident might have been used to underscore Pakistani concerns about Indian involvement in Chabahar port.
Published in Dawn, March 26th, 2016