ISLAMABAD: With Pakistan-India bickering on spy Kulbhushan Jadhav reaching new levels, the Foreign Office (FO) on Saturday chided India on press freedom.
“Quint takes down its story. Truth is stranger than fiction,” FO spokesman Dr Muhammad Faisal tweeted.
He was commenting on Indian digital news platform The Quint removing a story — on Jadhav’s career with India’s premier intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing — under pressure from the Indian government. The story that chronicled how Jadhav’s choice for operations in Pakistan was opposed by at least two heads of the Indian intelligence agency strengthened Pakistan’s claim that he (Jadhav) was actually a spy, who had been involved in espionage, terrorism and sabotage in Pakistan.
Chandan Nandy, who filed the story, came under severe attack on Indian media platforms with people calling into question his motive for writing a report that went against the country’s interest.
Meanwhile, the government’s Twitter handle quoting Dr Faisal posted another tweet, which read: “Indian Government has got removed news story telling truth about convicted spy Kulbhushan Jadhav.”
Islamabad reproaches New Delhi over media freedom curbs
The website displayed an announcement that it had retracted the Jadhav story for “rechecking some of the information mentioned in the article”.
Shortly after the story went online, Chandan Nandy tweeted “Calling a spade a spade!” Mr Chandan is an opinion editor at The Quint.
He reveals that after two RAW chiefs rejected Jadhav’s appointment, a third one agreed to it and “the recruitment was approved by a joint secretary as the supervisory officer. The RAW has a special unit which also undertakes parallel operations in certain crucial target countries for which it seeks out its own recruits.”
“This was among a few different attempts to launch renewed efforts to use human sources as ‘deep penetration’ agents in Pakistan, where most intelligence assets, both HUMINT and SIGINT, were wound up during the prime ministership of IK Gujral in the late 1990s.”
The article mentioned that the clearest evidence of Jadhav’s involvement with RAW surfaced after his capture in Pakistan, when a former RAW chief, besides at least two other senior officers, called his Mumbai-based parents to “advise” them to not speak about their son’s case to anyone.
Mr Chandan in his report also raised questions about the issuance of a passport in his cover name ‘Mubarak Hussain Patel’ — a name which he also used for a supposedly business deal with his mother. Jadhav’s second passport is one of the pieces of evidence on which Pakistan is relying its case to prove that he is a spy.
RAW sources, which were quoted in the article, believed that Jadhav’s unprofessionalism of using airwaves to interact with his case officer in New Delhi instead of a face-to-face meeting proved to be his Achilles heel as the Inter-Services Intelligence intercepted his communication and tracked him down.
The article said standard operating procedures might have been relaxed while recruiting Jadhav. But, once he was caught in Pakistan, records relating to payments made to him were destroyed, leaving “no trace” of his existence as far RAW is concerned. There were also reports about Chandan being untraceable after the website removed the article.
Pakistan’s FO also reported that as an update on its Twitter account: “Journalist Chandan Nandy who filed the story is “missing/gone in hiding”, was last spotted at Khan Market Delhi and since then has been untraceable for Family and friends. Freedom of press?”
Raza Laskar, an Indian journalist who has remained posted in Pakistan, responded to the FO tweet: “As a responsible spox for a country’s Foreign Office, please don’t put out fake news originating from a fevered imagination. I just got off the phone with @NandyGram, he’s in Delhi & perfectly fine.”
Published in Dawn, January 7th, 2018