Spearhead Analysis – 14.04.2017
Kulbushan Yadav is a serving officer in the Indian Navy. He was arrested while on a false passport that identified him as ‘Patel’. After his arrest he confessed to being an agent of India’s intelligence agency RAW (Research and Analysis Wing) working under the cover of being a businessman based in the Iranian port Chahbahar just 70 km’s down the coast from Pakistan’s Baluchistan. Chahbahar is being developed by India for Iran. According to his confessional statement he had been tasked for creating a network to destabilize Pakistan internally with the primary, but not exclusive, focus on Baluchistan and Karachi—two areas that had seen a spate of violent terrorist attacks before Kulbushan Yadav was arrested and his network busted. Under the garb of operating a dhow business Mr Yadav also planned to target Pakistani ports and naval assets. Mr Yadav gave several personal and operational details that were quickly authenticated through a thorough investigation thereby establishing his credentials and subversive activity beyond the shadow of a doubt. On completion of the investigation Mr Yadav was tried in accordance with Pakistan’s laws by a Field General Court Martial and sentenced to death. He has the right of appeal.
Predictably India reacted first by denial then by blaming Pakistan for abducting a legitimate businessman from Chahbahar, Iran until finally, after the overwhelming evidence against Mr Yadav was made public and he had been sentenced, by admitting that he (Yadav) was indeed a ‘son of India’ and that India ‘would go to any extent’ to save him. Indian media has picked up from there and the propaganda against Pakistan has been ramped up to dangerous levels as animosity is whipped up. This has led to the security at the Pakistan High Commission in India being beefed up in anticipation of attacks—or sponsored attacks. Pakistan’s High Commissioner when summoned to the Indian Foreign Office made an appropriate diplomatic response but on the Indian side diplomacy seems to be taking a back seat. Mr Modi had, through a series of statements and actions already created Hindutva driven nationalistic fervor in India. He had also admitted India’s subversive role in former East Pakistan and stated a declared policy of ‘isolating Pakistan internationally’ and destabilizing it from within while closing the door on any kind of dialogue with Pakistan. No doubt the hard line Hindu militant organizations like the RSS will swing into action when they get the nod. Mr Modi was the Chief Minister of Gujerat when thousands of Muslims were massacred by rampaging Hindu mobs while the State administration watched from the side lines. India faces an indigenous Kashmiri revolt in Indian Held Kashmir and is using sub human levels of State force with negligible results—a former Chief Minister of India Mr Abdulla has echoed several voices from within India when he stated that ‘India is losing Kashmir’.
Recently the plot has thickened. A retired officer of the Pakistan Army has disappeared after travelling to Khatmandu, Nepal and further to Lumpini, a Nepalese town near the border with India. According to media reports he was lured with the promise of a job through a fake website and a fake recruiter. The classic ‘honeypot’ operation except that the ‘honey’ was financial inducement. There is speculation that he may be paraded by India as a Pakistani spy operating against India through Nepal—his passport could be shown with several entry and exit stamps to indicate a history of travel to Nepal—not a difficult photo shop undertaking! There after there could be Cold War type tit for tat activity to save Mr Yadav from the gallows. Already unsubstantiated reports in the media are indicating that the ‘missing’ Pakistani officer was an ISI operative and that he had been part of the team that nailed Mr Yadav and that Indian intelligence had been ‘tracking’ him—possibly the eventual explanation for the kidnapping from Nepal.
In yet another development a gangster accused of murder and terror in Karachi and Baluchistan has been taken into military custody. Again, according to media reports, he was based in Iran and operating from Chabahar. With Chahbahar as a common denominator can a RAW link be far behind? After all it is common knowledge that India is using Afghan space and assets based in that space for violent sectarian and terrorist acts of subversion against Pakistan– and now Chahbahar with Indian presence there is figuring as another India created hotspot. Iran has recently criticized the possible employment of Pakistan’s former Army Chief as the leader of what is being seen as a 34 nation Sunni force against terror—a coalition announced but yet to take concrete shape. India has also acted to cosy up to Pakistan’s longstanding allies in the Arab world—Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Pakistan has reassured Iran and has also done some fence mending with its Arab allies—possibly miffed by Pakistan’s earlier correct decision not to get involved in the Yemen-Saudi conflict.
Unbridled rhetoric and state sponsored media outbursts can quickly take over to start an escalatory process that outstrips diplomacy and encourages military responses. Coercive and compellance strategies can add to the escalating situation as domestic political compulsions start dictating actions. India and Pakistan are both nuclear weapon states and both have, hopefully, been through a learning process in managing their nuclear assets and the implications of such assets in state to state relations. As if to negate such positive thinking there is talk of India opting for a ‘first’ or preemptive’ strike policy to preempt or respond to Pakistan’s use of tactical nuclear weapons used to offset India’s conventional superiority if it threatens Pakistan’s survival. There is an urgent need for both countries to step back before they reach a brink and let diplomacy take over and work out the modalities for resolving this looming crisis in India-Pakistan relations–a crisis in which people to people hostility is growing exponentially. Pakistan needs to factor in the importance of bilateral relations with Iran and also look at the multilateral context of relations with China, Russia and the US. India and Pakistan need to work at changing the perception of two perpetually squabbling neighbors oblivious of the responsibility that nuclear weapons capability entails. For starters Pakistan needs a strong diplomatic team and India needs to edge away from the ‘no dialogue’ policy.
(Spearhead Analyses are collaborative efforts and not attributable to a single individual).