Pakistan had accused India of stoking violence in Balochistan and Karachi in the past but it is for the first time that it has claimed arresting a RAW officer.
India on Friday rejected Pakistan’s claims that it had arrested a serving naval officer in Balochistan for what it called “subversive activities”. In a statement, the Ministry of External affairs however, admitted that the man believed to be arrested was a former officer of the navy.
“The said individual has no link with Government since his premature retirement from Indian Navy,” said the MEA statement, adding that India has now sought consular access to him. The government also denied the Pakistani claim that the former officer was spying, saying that “India has no interest in interfering in internal matters of any country and firmly believes that a stable and peaceful Pakistan is in the interest of all in the region.”
According to documents released by Military intelligence sources in Pakistan, the arrested man identified himself as Kulbhushan Yadav, formerly a commander in the navy, who, Pakistan claims, was sent under deputation to the Research and Analysis Wing of the government to Iran. A passport (No. L9630722), purportedly belonging to the arrested man, showed his assumed name as ‘Hussein Mubarak Patel’, born in Sangli, Maharashtra, and living in Powai, as well as a valid Iranian visa in his name.
The details were shared with Indian High Commissioner Gautam Bambawale on Friday morning, when he was summoned by Pakistan Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhury, when Mr. Chaudhury lodged a protest with India.
However, officials denied that any documents had been handed over, and were able to verify the identity of the former Naval officer on the “basis of the name provided by Pakistan.”
The arrested former official is believed to have been flown to Islamabad, where he will be further interrogated.
Pakistan lodges protest over arrest of ‘RAW agent’
“The Indian High Commissioner was summoned by the Foreign Secretary and through a demarche conveyed our protest and deep concern on the illegal entry into Pakistan by a RAW officer and his involvement in subversive activities in Balochistan and Karachi,” a Pakistan foreign ministry statement said.
Sources told The Hindu that during the conversation, Pakistani FS Mr. Chaudhury said that the arrest was in line with previous protests by Pakistan over what it calls Indian support to Baloch national groups, waging an insurgency in Pakistan. India has denied the charges of any involvement, but this is the first time Pakistan has alleged it has arrested a serving officer of the external intelligence agency R&AW.
The case has dominated Pakistani headlines after the details of the arrest of Mr. Yadav on March 21st were disclosed to the media. According to State Interior Minister Mir Sarfaraz Bugti, the arrest took place in the Chaman area near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, and Mr. Yadav had disclosed his real name, and said he worked for the R&AW and the Afghanistan intelligence agency NDS. ““It has been our contention that RAW has been involved (in creating unrest) in Balochistan,” Mr. Bugti told reporters on Friday.
According to intelligence officials in Pakistan, Mr. Yadav had entered Pakistan illegally through the border with Iran. While sources in the government said they had no information on why he would have crossed over from Iran, they said he was believed to be contracted privately with a construction project linked to the Chabahar port in Iran. Significantly, the arrest was announced on the day Iranian President Rouhani landed in Pakistan for a bilateral visit.
In India, military sources refused to comment on the issue. However one official, who didn’t wish to be named, pointed out that the speed of the MEA statement acknowledging the identity of the arrested man indicated that India had been given prior information about the arrest.
It is understood that NSA Ajit Doval has been in regular contact with the Pakistan NSA Janjua, with unconfirmed reports that they had shared intelligence on terror inputs as well in the past two months.
The arrest comes a week before Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif travel to Washington to attend the Nuclear Security Summit on March 31st. While no bilateral meeting has been confirmed by either side, the arrest in Balochistan is likely to come up in future talks between both countries, officials said.