Is it just a fantasy to portray Madhuri Gupta as a hysterically vengeful mole? One has to be particularly naive to believe that spies can compromise a nation’s security, especially in a world of hackers and satellites that can count the number of hair in a politician’s ears. Opinion pieces and reports on the Indian diplomat's case have been chauvinistic, besides being fairly lame.
Had Gupta not been “lonely and frustrated,” would she be less dangerous? Why did the government need to call her on a pretext rather than just summoning her? Did she really want to get back at her seniors for ill-treatment? Did her colleagues desire a piece of the action too? If she is being framed, then it makes no political or tactical sense.
Foreign offices do not possess strategic information about defence matters within the home country. The real issue appears to be the creation of an undercover subculture and obfuscate the role of well-entrenched intelligence agencies in India and Pakistan. It became amply clear when there was a minor whimper that the spy drama might affect talks between the two countries at the Saarc Summit. The dialogue was to be a placebo, but this ruse came in handy.
While newspapers have been giving us examples of ‘honey traps’ from history, they haven’t bothered to emphasise recent examples. Remember Kashmir Singh who returned home after 35 years in Pakistani prisons and revealed that he had been a spy for Indian military intelligence? He got himself circumcised before venturing across the border, brushed up on his Urdu, ate beef and fasted during Ramzan. He was paid Rs480 per month till his arrest. He chose not to reveal more and changed his stance but, surprisingly, there was no further probing.
Human rights activist Ansar Burney was all treacle about how his release symbolised efforts by India and Pakistan to normalise relations. “Never before have we seen an Indian prisoner being escorted in a flag car of a minister,” he said. Why did the spy sound as though a favour had been done? Why did he return to a “hero’s welcome?” Sarabjit Singh, who has been given the death sentence, was in one version a drunken farmer who crossed over by mistake.
He later said he had gone to Pakistan 17 times, which means he was given to making the same mistakes. In another version, he was forced to confess, which is not unlikely. But he was also arrested in five bomb blast cases. We are left confused over whether espionage work entails such activities as well. He also told a Pakistani court that he was a RAW agent. There are several innocent fishermen who get thrown off to the other shore and are arrested.
M L Bhaskar in An Indian Spy in Pakistan (translated into English by Jai Ratan) mentioned the names of some of our defence officers who were in jail — he got this from a Pakistani official during his own stint in a Pakistani prison. But does the external affairs ministry speak up for these fishermen as they did in Sarabjit’s case? Are such special instances chosen at random? In Gupta’s case certain information has been “lost”. In a digitalised world where you cannot erase even memory cards and hard disks completely, this sounds suspicious.
What is even more alarming is a news item that stated, “Officials said they were also questioning the RAW station chief in Islamabad, R K Sharma, to see what he knew and what he had picked up from her.” India has a RAW station chief in the Pakistani capital? Is an ISI chief positioned in Delhi? Should we be amused and refer to these as confidence-building measures? The real cause for worry is not the espionage, but the behind-the-scenes manoeuvres where the mole is a mere marionette.