Ashok Alex Luke
The latest controversy over the death sentence granted to an Indian national Kulbhushan Jadav on April 10th by Pakistan has once again raised tensions between the two South Asian neighbors which have blown out of proportion since the Uri attacks in September 2016. According to Pakistan’s claim, Jadhav who was arrested on March 3, 2016, from the Baluchistan province is a serving officer of the Indian Navy and working for India’s Research and Analysis Wing. He has been convicted on the charges of collaborating several subversive activities in Pakistan including a plot to carry out an attack on the Gwadar port which is geo-strategically significant to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Soon after his arrest last year a video footage showed Jadav confessing about his identity of being an Indian naval officer working for the RAW and had been on a mission to Baluchistan. India, however, had refuted charges that Jadav was a spy but acknowledged that he was a former naval officer who took an early retirement and had traveled to Chabahar in Iran for his business interests and he was forcefully abducted along the Iran-Pakistan border.
Further India has stated that Jadhav’s confession was an act of compulsion from the Pakistani authorities and has called for consular access to him on several occasions which Pakistan denied. In spite of India’s warning that the execution of Kulbhushan Jadav will severely damage the bilateral relations, Pakistan is moving forward with the death row. Pakistan claims that there is ample evidence to Jadav’s involvement in many of the upheavals of Pakistan; it also points to the dual passports which Jadav possess as evidence to espionage. While differences continue about the place of his arrest, Pakistan’s national daily Dawn reports about the statement of German Ambassador to Pakistan some time ago “the Indian spy recently detained in Baluchistan was caught by the Taliban and sold to Pakistani Intelligence.” Suspicion also counts about the timing of the verdict as it was only after the disappearance of a retired Pakistan army officer in Nepal who played a key role in Jadhav’s arrest that Pakistan has come up with such a verdict. India has always accused Pakistan of inflicting terrorism upon it, but however, the arrest of Jadav had given Pakistan an opportunity to play the different card and refute India’s allegations.
The espionage is an important part of statecraft and has always been in practice from ancient times. In his book Artahshathra Kutaliya emphasis on the need of conducting espionage to keep the country safe from foreign attacks. In modern times espionage has always been a tool practiced among rival nations against each other be it Americans and the Soviets or between the Arabs and Israelis. The case of India and Pakistan is not too different. Many times any incident involving a series of blast or outburst among people domestically in India or Pakistan is accused to be orchestrated by the work of enemy’s spy agency or its terrorist network. In India, be it the attack on the Indian parliament of 2001, the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai or the many explosions that rocked the Indian cities, all the finger points towards Pakistan’s ISI or its proxies.
Even the recent Lucknow rail incident in India is also linked to the ISI. Just as Kashmir with India, Pakistan too has its problems in Baluchistan and over the years it accuses India’s RAW of inflaming violence in its troubled region. Therefore any serious Indian engagement in Afghanistan or Iran is worrisome to Pakistan as these countries have geographical proximity to the troubled regions of Pakistan. Over the past several years there had been numerous attacks on the Indian missions in Afghanistan in which several of its embassy officials were killed. Ample evidence suggests that all this were orchestrated by the ISI as a ploy to reduce India’s significance in the war-torn country. Many a time both the countries had busted each other’s spy network operating in its territory, while Pakistan had in the past sentenced to death Indian nationals over the charge of spying or imprisoned for several decades, India had never sentenced a single Pakistani national to death on the charges of espionage. One of the flaws of the Indian legal system as delaying with the capital punishment on the charges of terrorism and espionage can cost India dearly as it did when India had to free Maulana Masood Azhar in exchange for the hostages in Kandahar in 1999. Later Masood formed the Jaish-e-Muhammed and was instrumental in planning and executing several attacks in India under the patronage of the ISI. No matter how much diplomatic pressure India engages, looking at the domestic scenario in Pakistan especially when a new army chief takes over and also when Mr. Nawaz Sharif is nearing to the end his tenure and looking forward to face fresh elections in 2018 and also the recent controversy over the Panama papers leakage involving his family members, any compromise made by Mr. Sharif or the army on Jadav would seriously put the legitimacy of the leadership in jeopardy. And this could be seen even in the case of Sarabjit Singh, though he met a tragic end he was never pardoned by the Pakistani leadership in spite of many pleadings from India. Moreover, since the mentioning of Baluchistan by India’s Prime Minister in his Independence Day speech last year the Jadav episode will serve as a trump card for Pakistan which will carry a clear message to India that any interference in its internal affairs will carry a heavy price. At the same time, it also calls for introspection to India to act tough on the Pakistani spies and terrorist who are put behind bars and also about the safety of its citizens who are engaged at different forms in the region of South Asia.