Indian subterfuge

Published January 27, 2024

OVER the past several months, a seedier side of Indian foreign policy — the extrajudicial murder of dissidents and perceived enemies in other countries — has been making headlines.

Authorities in Canada and the US had last year made public the involvement of Indian operatives in such dubious activities, while Pakistan has long complained of New Delhi’s malign actions inside its borders. The Kulbhushan Jadhav case is perhaps the most famous of these instances, but there have been other such incidents.

On Thursday, Foreign Secretary Syrus Qazi told a press conference that the state had credible evidence of Indian involvement in extrajudicial killings in Pakistan. He specifically mentioned the murders last year of Mohammad Riaz in Rawalakot, Azad Kashmir, and Shahid Latif in Sialkot.

There had long been speculation that the two men — formerly associated with Kashmir-centric militant outfits — may have been targeted by the Indians, and Mr Qazi’s briefing confirmed these suspicions. He also named the local suspects held for their involvement in the killings, while identifying by name Indian agents believed to have overseen these operations.

One of the Indian operatives was reportedly operating from a Gulf country. While New Delhi has been quick to denounce these claims, as the foreign secretary pointed out, some Indian mainstream and social media accounts had initially boasted about the killings as ‘retribution’.

Firstly, no foreign actor can be allowed to violate Pakistan’s territorial sovereignty by carrying out such illegal killings. If any state believes individuals in Pakistan have been involved in wrongdoing, diplomatic channels need to be used to resolve the issue. Gung-ho actions seemingly out of spy thrillers cannot be tolerated.

Secondly, the administration needs to be vigilant so that malign forces working for hostile states are not able to take the law into their own hands, and murder people at will on our soil.

While India may reply in sanctimonious terms to Pakistan’s claims of involvement in cross-border assassinations, it will be unable to respond in similar fashion to Western states, such as the US, where an Indian citizen has been charged in a failed plot to kill a pro-Khalistan activist.

India must respect the rules of engagement and desist from destabilising other states, while its Western friends need to be more vocal about the former’s illegal activities on foreign soil as this is not how responsible states behave.

Published in Dawn, January 27th, 2024

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