There is something both comic and tragic in the story about busting a Pakistani spying network headed by an employee of the Pak High Commission in India. The comic part is the belief that catching the 35-year-old Mehmood Akhtar near Delhi Zoo with two Indians has shaken the foundation of the Pakistani spy ring operating from its chancery in India.
Next only to its investment in raising and nursing a huge army of terrorists and pushing them off to India with the help of fire cover provided by their security personnel, Pakistan spends heavily in building and maintaining a vast spy network in India. It is believed on the basis of past events that the Pakistani cloak and dagger work in India is too big to be smashed in one operation. Pakistani’s ISI with its stash of unlimited funds with a large chunk coming from military-militants -narcotics business, which need not be accounted for, spends lavishly on raising the spy army on the Indian soil.
Despite witnessing its innumerable mischievous acts including attacks on Indian sovereignty, since the time of Partition, India continues to treat the western neighbour as a ‘normal’ country worthy of receiving all the civil niceties, diplomatic courtesies and strict adherence to the 1961 Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations.
It has been reported that the Pakistan Mission employee, allegedly in the visa section though he was also described as an Assistant to the Commercial Counsellor, was found carrying an Aadhar card, supposed to be an authentic Indian identity card. This was sufficient ground for the police to ‘arrest’ him and interrogate him thoroughly. He, reports said, was detained for about three hours during which the police verified facts about his diplomatic identity. Akhtar would not have blurted out much in that short period. Spies are trained not to give in easily. It takes long hours, if not days, to break them.
Just consider what would Pakistan have done in a similar case. The man (Indian) would have been taken to a secret place without leaking any information about his whereabouts. He would have been beaten black and blue and after extracting full confession from him, he would have been made to sign a document to say that he was treated well. At the time of handing him over to an Indian diplomat, the media would be told that he was being handed to Indian authorities within a short period of his detention.
Pakistan invoking the Vienna Convention in the arrest of Akhtar is deplorable. It has in custody a former Indian Navy officer, Kulbhushan Jadhav, who many in India believe, was kidnapped by the Pakistanis from Iranian port city of Chabahar. India’s request for consular access to him, permissible under the Vienna Convention, has been rejected. It is not known if he has been provided any legal assistance. Despite a tape allegedly containing Jadhav’s ‘confession’, it is difficult to believe that he was treated well by his ‘hosts’. It is not their practice; it is not their tradition.
Pakistan has said nothing much about an Indian soldier who strayed into Pakistani territory when India had launched the ‘surgical strike’ across the line of control. He was not part of the Indian team that launched the attack and all Pakistan has said is that the jawan is in their custody.
Pakistan will not change its ways of refusing to act in a civilised manner with Indian civilians who are unfortunate enough to fall into their hands. What is India’s obligation to stick to the civil or diplomatic norms when dealing with their citizens?
It is safe to imagine that had Akhtar been detained and interrogated longer he would have almost certainly blurted out more useful information than what he did in a short time. We would have learnt more about the spy masters working in the High Commission in Delhi and the many Pakistani diplomats who would have been involved in running a spy racket in Delhi– and also funding Kashmiri separatists.
In 2013, the then Deputy High Commission of Pakistan in Delhi was caught by the Police red handed with a bag full of cash that he was to hand over to the Kashmiri separatist leaders who were to meet him. Pakistan promoted the man and eventually he ended up as Pakistan’s Ambassador in the US.
Pakistan is talking of the Vienna Convention is really a shame. Indian diplomats in Pakistan are forced to live a caged life. There have been several instances in the past when Pakistani security personnel invaded the privacy of the homes of Indian diplomats in Islamabad and beat up all occupants, including women and children. To hide their guilt they trumped up similar charges against India without providing any ‘proof’—a favourite Pakistani word.
What the ‘nation wants to know’ is how strong or good is the surveillance on the Pakistanis in their Mission in India? The high commission vehicles with diplomatic number plate can be found driving up and down the city apparently without being trailed. It is very different from what the Indians in Islamabad experience. It is time the Pakistani Diplomats are also subjected to similar hostile surveillance that the Indian diplomats in Islamabad face.