Serving Indian Navy officer Kulbhushan Jadhav was sentenced to death by a Field General Court Martial (FGCM) under the Pakistan Army Act (PAA) for running a clandestine terror network aimed at destabilizing the country, Jadhavâ€™s arrest was a major counterintelligence victory against Indian subversion.
According to Jadhav, he was tasked by Indiaâ€™s spy agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), â€œto plan and organize espionage and sabotage activities in Pakistan, particularly in Balochistan and in Karachiâ€.Â A small business in Iran provided him cover for frequent trips to Pakistan. His confession confirmed contact with ethnic and sectarian extremist militant groups for fueling violence and terrorism in the country.
India claims that Jadhav was kidnapped from Iranian soil, Pakistan has irrefutable evidence of this â€œState Actorâ€ crossing over into Balochistan from Iran. Iranâ€™s investigations led to the dismantling of the Jadhav network in Chahbahar and adjoining regions. One of Jadhavâ€™s main tasks was to sabotage the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) through terrorist action, propaganda was to be used to create disharmony among the Baloch nationalist political parties. Submitting dossiers to the UN containing proof of RAW agents working under diplomatic cover at Indian High Commission in Islamabad (present Indian National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval openly boasts about it), Pakistan urged the UN to restrain India from attempting to destabilise Balochistan. Evidence regarding Jadhavâ€™s arrest was handed over to some world powers, including the US and UK.
Pakistanis across the board are unanimous that the death sentence to a spy involved in not only destabilizing Pakistan but carrying out terrorist activities was the correct decision. The consensus is that Indian will certainly react, diplomatically as well as on other fronts. While we should be prepared for Indian provocations, the govt must not back down in the face of Indian threats.Â Appeasement and/or deference can go only so far.Â Jadhavâ€™s death sentencing by FGCM was according to the tenets of military law for trial of spies and saboteurs, serving as a warning to those engaged in terrorism in Pakistan. A strong message has been given to India and the international community that Pakistan will not take any Indian interference lying down. Being threatened by repercussions by the Indian Prime Minister and the BJP hierarchy was not a surprise.
While the Indian media literally went berserk, Sushma Swaraj, the Indian External Affairs Minister said in Parliament that if the sentence was carried out, â€œthe government and people of India will regard it as a case of premeditated murder.â€ Labeling Jadhav as the â€œson of Indiaâ€, she said that India would go to any extent to save him. Ms Swaraj also warned Pakistan of the impact this would have on bilateral ties.Â BJP came under fire in the Indian Parliament, to quote Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge. “Pakistan has sentenced Kulbhushan Jadhav on lies and false allegations of spying. Why is the government silent?” He said the govt would be seen as weak if no action was taken against the death sentence.
BJPâ€™s Subramanian Swamy underscored the Modi govtâ€™s sustained venom against Pakistan when he asked the Indian government to â€˜declare Balochistan as an independent stateâ€™ and urged the Baloch residing in New Delhi to form a government-in-exile,Â â€œAnd after Jadhav, if Pakistan does another atrocity, Sindh will be seceded out of Pakistan. Ultimately Pakistan will end up in four pieces.” Coming from someone in the BJP hierarchy confirmed Indiaâ€™s long history of fanning terrorism inside Pakistan by sponsoring terrorist outfits in Balochistan, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, and Karachi. Jadhavâ€™s case only substantiates Indiaâ€™s state involvement in subversive activities in Pakistan, he is a â€œstate actorâ€ and not a non-state actor.Â For years India has decried the activities of so-called â€œnon-state actorsâ€ from Pakistan alleging without credible evidence that ISI â€œhandlesâ€ them.Â How can India refute being a sponsor of state terrorism when a serving military officer is revealed as a RAW â€œstate actorâ€?
Jadhav is not the first RAW operative to be caught in Pakistan, a good number of Indian spies have been apprehended and imprisoned. The most notable was Ravindra Kaushik, a street actor who, after extensive training in Delhi succeeded in getting a civilian clerk’s job in the Pakistan Armyâ€™s Military Accounts Department.Â He kept on passing information to RAW from 1979 to 1983. RAW agent Sarabjit Singh (also known as Manjit Singh) was convicted of terrorism and spying by the Pakistan Supreme Court for a series of bomb attacks that had killed 14 people in Lahore and Faisalabad during 1990. Arrested in 1973, Kashmir Singh spent 35 years in prison in Pakistan. Throughout his incarceration, he insisted he was not a spy but after crossing the border to India once he was pardoned on death row by then President Pervez Musharraf he boasted he was â€œonly doing his duty as a spyâ€. All these were â€œstate actorsâ€ belonging to RAW.
The Indians are already on the offensive. On April 6 a retired Pakistan Army officer Lt Col Muhammad Habib Zahir disappeared from the proximity of Indiaâ€™s border with Nepal where he had gone for a job interview after receiving a lucrative offer via a computer-generated telephone call from Britain and a domain and its associated website hosted in India. The Nepal police are still searching for him but the apparent abduction has led family members to believe that Indian intelligence agencies may have taken him.
The inflammatory Indian rhetoric targeting Pakistan across the divide is very revealing about its intentions.Â The vitriol intensity over the years has force-multiplied many times after the launch of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), India should not have any illusion that China will stand by and let the Indians sabotage the CPEC, China is an equal partner in the CPEC and has far more at stake than to be cowed down by Indian rhetoric.
India is going out of its way to exert political and diplomatic pressure, there is every likelihood of military adventure, things will likely heat up on the Line of Control (LoC) and the working boundary. Already quite formidable an Indian communications offensive will pose a tough challenge for Pakistan. Already facing an undeclared â€œhybrid warâ€ being conducted by India, Pakistan should prepare itself for an even greater onslaught.Â Once â€œstate actorâ€ Jadhav confessed to his crimes in which innocent people were killed, the bottom line remains that the death sentence is the right decision. Indian threats notwithstanding, Pakistanâ€™s message must remain clear and unambiguous, anyone operating against the State will be severely dealt with.
[The writer is a defence and security analyst]