Pakistan says it has arrested an Indian spy - retired Indian Naval commander Kulbhushan Yadav with an alias Hussain Mubarrak
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On 3 March 2016 a retired Indian Naval Commander Kulbhushan Yadav was arrested in Pakistan on charges of illegal entry into the country via Iran. The arrest was reportedly made near the border region of Chaman.
Twenty-six days later, on March 29, civilian and military leaders presented to the media in Islamabad his video confession that he was indeed a spy of India's external intelligence agency, Research & Analysis Wing (R&AW).
"It is very rare that a country's intelligence officer is caught in another country," Lt. Gen. Asim Saleem Bajwa, the military spokesman, said as he released the six-minute video. "It is a big achievement," he said as Pakistan's minister for Information, Pervaiz Rasheed, nodded his head in appreciation.
Nothing much has been heard since then about Yadav.
India's Ministry of External Affairs, we are told, had sought consular access to Yadav. The request was rejected. Normally countries are known to disown their spies if they are caught with their pants down. New Delhi did not disown Yadav; surprising, yes, indeed, it is, but that is what India did.
From what is in public domain, there is no dispute whatsoever that Kulbhushan Yadav served Indian Navy with distinction. On retirement in 2003 he started a ship-based cargo business with headquarters in Mumbai and an office in the Iranian port city, Chabahar, which acts as a hub for trade with Afghanistan and Central Asia.
India is helping Iran to develop Chabahar; it is legitimate, therefore, to question as to who between Yadav and Indian government went first to Chabahar since Pakistan sees Chabahar as the rival to Gwadar port that China is building on Balochistan coast as its gateway to the energy-rich Middle East. But the Yadav family rejects the very question.
"What is there for us to hide? My son talked to us regularly from Iran. Do you think he would dare to talk to us on phone if he was in any hanky-panky business," his father, Sudhir Yadav, told journalists, who visited him at his residence in a seven-story building in a Mumbai suburb.
He went on to say: "My son's passport shows this house address, 502B Silver Oak, Powai, Hiranandani Gardens. You can see Iranian visa on his passport. Still how can you say he is a spy? Absurd." The distraught father pooh-poohed the assertion of Pakistani agencies that Yadav worked at Gadani in Balochistan as a scrap dealer under a false identity.
Interestingly, even at Gadani, Pakistan finds India as its enemy Number One. Till the 1990s, Gadani was the world's third largest ship-breaking yard with 132 ship-breaking enterprises and 30,000 workers.
Alang in the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's home state of Gujarat has since dethroned Gadani as the major destination for ship breaking. Chittagong in Bangladesh has also come up as a new attraction with the result Gadani today is producing less than one-fifth of the scrap it produced three decades ago.
While making public Yadav's video confession, Asim Bajwa told the media that Yadav converted to Islam, adopted a false identity and worked at Gadani under the cover of a scrap dealer.
"Yadav was administered to establish a network of operatives, provision of funds, and arrange and smuggle people for terrorism into Pakistan. He told the interrogators to use a code phrase--your monkey is with us--in order to inform the Indian authorities about his arrest," Naveed Ahmad, a Doha-based Pakistani investigative journalist and academic, wrote in The Express Tribune.
Truth is always a casualty in any spy narrative. The Yadav saga is no exception. His relatives have picked up the video to pick holes in the Pakistani claims. In the video, Yadav is clean shaven, and slightly balding. He did not seem to have undergone the usual interrogation. He appeared confessing voluntarily without much prompting either.