Even as Pakistan’s High Commissioner denied espionage activities and registered his protests on the manner Akthar was treated, the Government of Pakistan has retaliated by sending home Indian officer Surjeet Singh after declaring him ‘persona non grata’ (an unacceptable person).
Some of my friends who discussed this with me abused Pakistan for this activity instead of looking at India in an unbiased manner. Many of them failed to understand that India is no exception to spying on its neighbours. Forgetting for a moment that India is not equipped enough to face Pakistan eye to eye militarily (read my previous article ‘<a href="http://www.offprint.in/article/1982" target="_blank">Is India prepared for war against Pakistan?</a>‘), India has been spying on all of its neighbours and is more capable than Pakistan in destabilizing their polity.
The United States of America, which is ‘thriving to nurture democracy’ in several countries, has been doing so by encouraging terrorism with the help of its spy agency CIA. It is now well known that some of world’s worst militants like Osama Bin laden are products of such American spy game. As Pakistan has long been an American ally and a member of America – led NATO, ISI (Inter Services Intelligence) has a long history in working alongside CIA in several of its military and diplomatic programs including the Afghan war.
Speaking of India, the RAW (Research and Analysis Wing) was founded in 1968 as India’s international spy agency to gather and secure strategic intelligence from abroad. India, in its interests, has used RAW to play displeasing games in the internal politics of some of its neighbours.
In fact, it is widely believed that RAW is responsible for the ouster of Mahinda Rajapaksha in Sri Lanka’s presidential election in 2015. As India rejected Mahinda’s requests in developing several key infrastructure projects like ‘Hambantota’, he sought the Chinese help. This is believed to be the reason for India helping ‘India friendly’ Sirisena to become the President of Sri Lanka. Though this was brushed aside as mere ‘conspiracy theory’, media houses failed to project that the RAW station chief at Colombo was expelled in December 2014 just before the election (much alike Akthar’s expusion on Thursday). In fact, Sri Lanka’s Sunday Times had reported on December 28, 2014 that ‘links with the common opposition had cost India’s RAW station chief his job in Colombo’. Interestingly, though India denied such reports, REUTERS pointed out in its article dated 17.01.2015 that Indian foreign ministry spokesperson stated that ‘transfers were routine decisions’.
Similarly, several reports claimed that RAW tried its best to thwart attempts to uninstall Maldivian President ‘Mohammed Nasheed’ in 2012. As soon as his successor Mohammed Waheed Hassan took charge, he cancelled all Indian projects including the much talked GMR’s Maldives airport project. Understandably, in 2015 when Nasheed was convicted under an anti-terror law, India was the first country he looked upon for political asylum (which he successfully claimed in the United Kingdom later). Similarly, several Nepali newspapers suggested Indian hand in the Madhesi protests in early 2015.
It should also be noted that India’s National Security Adviser Ajit Doval himself is a RAW agent who spied Pakistan for quite some time. Even as ISIS claimed responsibility for attacking Pakistan Police academy at Quetta (Capital of Balochistan province) last Monday, Pakistan carried several news items that suggest possible Indian hand. In fact, the people of Pakistan believe such news.
Long before India took the Balachistan issue to the international fora (apparently after Pakistan took the Kashmir issue abroad recently), Ajit Doval, in one of his speeches at SASTRA University (Tanjavur, Tamil Nadu), warned Pakistan of losing Balochistan if it did one more Mumbai (referring the 2008 terrorist attack). During a casual conversation with the lone officer at Jammu & Kashmir tourism office at Chennai in April, he told me how he strongly believed that India is hand in glove with terrorists in all terrorist attacks in Pakistan. After my unsuccessful attempt to convince him otherwise, I had to return wondering what would people of Pakistan think of the issue, leave alone this Kashmiri who is housed at Tamil Nadu for more than a decade now.
Interestingly, before fighting Pakistan eye to eye in 1971 over the East Pakistan refugee crisis, India trained and mutually shared strategic information with local rebel group ‘Mukthi Wahini’ with RAW’s help. This is available on official record both in India and Bangladesh even today. Though the refugee influx started only in April 1971, Ramchandra Guha claims in his book ‘India after Gandhi’ that RAW was pressed into service as early in January for collecting information on its military preparedness against India.
Similarly, RAW’s role should not be forgotten in several Indian sponsored programs like Rajiv-Jayawardane accord and operation Poomalai during Rajiv’s regime to help the Tamil cause. Such programs are seen as India’s apparent violation of Sri Lanka’s sovereignty.
It is important to note that Ravi Velloor writes in ‘India Rising’ that RAW has its agents within Indian embassies and that they often adopt ostentatious lifestyle, showing that they have access to more funds than the average diplomat. On a closer analysis, the reason seems simple – such people claim diplomatic immunity against arrest under the Vienna convention of 1961. Akthar has also escaped from arrest under the very same immunity as he was a High Commission staffer.
In this context, it must be understood that though it is very important to identify and remove spy agents from India, it is equally important to understand that India also has its spy agents abroad. It is very difficult to impress moral standards upon a nation with ‘spying’ as criteria. If it is, India is not a morally upright State.