Analysis: Kulbhushan Jadhav’s RAW move

Published: March 29, 2016
PHOTO: EXPRESS News screengrab

PHOTO: EXPRESS News screengrab

Kulbhushan Jadhav alias Hussein Mubarak Patel is a man the Indian media has been looking for. The arrested Indian citizen personifies counter-terror policy of Ajit Kumar Doval, India’s National Security Advisor and a proud spymaster. For the opposition parties, Kulbhushan offers a good reason to attack Modi government’s handling of the case.

Facts of the case remain that the man was found living with his wife, a son and a daughter with a genuine Indian passport but with a fake name, Hussein Mubarak Patel. Moreover, he was in possession of multiple identities. He was arrested from Chaman near Quetta.

Detained Indian spy confesses to RAW’s involvement in Balochistan

His Indian passport with valid Iranian visa bears the number L9630722 while his residential address is said to be No 502B Silver Oak, Powai, Hiranandani Gardens. The Indian Express has confirmed the address to be correct.

The Iranians have not claimed that Kulbhushan’s visa as Hussein is fake. When asked to comment during his solo press conference, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani denied the issue of RAW activities in Iranian Balochistan against Pakistan. Clearly, the visiting Iranian leader was taken off guard and embarrassed. However, the insult to injury worsened when Pakistani military asserted that the matter was on the table during the COAS meeting.

No media person is allowed to enter the seven-storeyed Powai building that is being constantly watched by plain clothed men from the Indian intelligence agency, especially the Detection Branch. Kulbhushan’s parents and family have been residing there for over two decades. Interestingly, his father Sudhir Jadhav has not pleaded son’s innocence in a press conference since Islamabad announced the arrest. Sudhir remains inaccessible.

Pakistan summons Indian envoy over ‘RAW officer’ nabbed in Balochistan

Times of India quoted a former assistant commissioner of police in Mumbai Subhas Yadav that the picture on the passport seized by Pakistan was that of his nephew Kulbhushan Jadhav.

Pakistani investigators believe that the man joined RAW in 2013 while Delhi admitted that he was commander (equivalent to lieutenant colonel) of Indian Navy who had opted to retire prematurely. To many, there could not have been a better cover story from the Indian side emerging many hours after Pakistan summoned its high commissioner Gautam Bambawale.

It’s likely that Hussein alias Kulbhushan has visa and work permit on both passports with different identities. The travel document released by Pakistan is valid till 2024. Work permit on both passports expires in June. The Iranian permit reportedly allowed him to enter from Bazargan.

Pakistan claimed that the man was running a terrorist financing and training network and used to operate from Chabahar in Iran, Makran in Pakistan and adjoining districts of Afghanistan. The cover story of running cargo business in Iran’s Bandar-Abbas and Chabahar ports makes perfect sense if Islamabad’s version is to be believed. His task was to initiate a string of subversive activities on the Makran coast where not only Chinese are working on Gwadar port but Pakistan Navy and Air Force also have multiple facilities.

‘RAW officer’ arrested in Balochistan

In a first, India’s ministry of external affairs confirmed that the person identified was a naval officer who opted to retire prematurely. The standard alibi in such cases is not to own a compromised asset. Delhi played the card to gain counsellor access which may not be granted any sooner. More bizarre is the swift manner in which the ministry of defense confirmed the identity details to the South Block. Those who know bureaucratic red-tapism in Indian bureaucracy will agree that the two ministries, often at odds, showed rare teamwork. May be the Modi government was long waiting to clarify about the missing spy.

Indian critics believe that it was a strategic mistake to own up a former military officer who had spilled the beans during the enemy custody.

Indian commentators suspect a high-level Pakistani mole in the Modi government who allegedly helped Islamabad ‘concoct the story against an Indian businessman’. The analysts, mostly retired military men and former ambassadors, are asking for review of internal security within the bureaucratic and political ranks in Delhi.

The Indian media perplexed with the question as to why would a spy carry a passport. The reality on the ground is that the man’s passport revealed by Pakistani authorities bears his ‘Muslim name’ and photo. The same is true for the Iranian visa. Seemingly, RAW acted with over confidence that it’s easy to operate in Pakistan’s south-western outposts, and did not resort to necessary precaution.

Balochistan has been long known to exist in a security vacuum where smuggled Iranian goods including petroleum product could be bought from local markets. However, the situation started to slowly change just before the Sui operation and killing or Akbar Bugti.

India police arrest ex-air force officer for spy links with ISI

The Indian opposition to Chinese presence in coastal development project and CPEC is public knowledge. Development of Gwadar marginalises scope of Chabahar port for Iran and India both which is being developed to alternately link Tehran and Delhi to Afghanistan and Central Asia.

Its consulate in Zahedan, near the Pakistan border, has been long accused of subversive activities in Balochistan. Indian consulates in Afghanistan too have been under close Pakistani watch. As back as in 2005, India was alleged to air anti-Pakistan and pro-Baloch resistance radio transmission from Afghanistan.

Prime facie, the documents available and circumstantial evidence support Pakistan’s stance. The controversy is going to get more complex and last much longer.

Naveed Ahmad is a Pakistani investigative journalist and academic with extensive reporting experience in the Middle East and North Africa. He is based in Doha and Istanbul. He tweets @naveed360

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Reader Comments (14)

  • Babloo
    Mar 29, 2016 - 7:16PM

    Its time India gave up this 1/2 hearted, raw efforts and mounted a 100 times greater operation to do in Pakisttan what Pakistan has done for last 70 years from Kashmir to Punjab to Assam to Bengal. Let the gloves come off.Recommend

  • Sana
    Mar 29, 2016 - 7:17PM

    Its true hes an officer and should be protected by employers liability and agency principles. and he probably gave the confession to save his family. Recommend

  • Mar 29, 2016 - 10:00PM

    Shameful and disgusting of India. Recommend

  • ali
    Mar 29, 2016 - 10:53PM


    When India will learn to live in peace with its neighbors. Should I remeind you Operation Polo to Mukhti Banis and Siachin to Kulbushan Yadav?Recommend

  • Hannan
    Mar 29, 2016 - 11:36PM

    I cannot understand. If Indians doing terrorist activities, why Pakistan not opening up in Kashmir? Why should we sing anthems of love if the other party pressing a knife in our back?Recommend

  • globalobserver
    Mar 30, 2016 - 3:19AM

    This is all just cooked up drama by the Pakistani Establishment. If it wanted to carry out spying activities in Balochistan, why would the Indians need to send an Indian conveniently carrying an Indian passport? Instead, India could have hired a thousand Baloch who are begging for Indian help.Recommend

  • Sid
    Mar 30, 2016 - 7:45AM

    And let us remind you of operation Gibraltor to Kargil, from Kashmir to Mumbai attacks. Recommend

  • mateen
    Mar 30, 2016 - 4:36PM

    The only loophole is clearly the Indian passport! There is no precedence that spies carry passports of their own countries if they are living with a different identity. I wouldnt be surprised about spying! But this guy doesnt sound like one!Recommend

  • Mm bashir
    Mar 30, 2016 - 5:46PM

    Very well written article, no side taking

    Objective analysis Recommend

  • Lil' Joe
    Mar 30, 2016 - 7:31PM

    By conservative estimates, there are more than 40,000 RAW operatives of Indian and Pakistani nationality working in Pakistan. So, the arrest of one person is of no consequence….Recommend

  • Srinivasulu Mekala
    Mar 30, 2016 - 10:49PM

    Even if this man Yadav is a spy, the narrative is not going to change. All Pakistanis have always believed that RAW is behind all things evil in Pakistan, even from the day Pakistan was born. Now this Yadav episode gives India a chance to overtly get associated with Baloch indepence movement exactly the same way Pakistan is associated with Huriyat. I must say, the issue whether true or concocted, has been handled in a way it legitimises the Baloch unrest, and gives a right royal highway for Indian involvement. This analysis is difficult to understand with the present Pakistani general mindset, but the future events will prove it as the inevitable.Recommend

  • Ali Khan
    Mar 31, 2016 - 4:52AM

    @Srinivasulu Mekala:I think you have not seen the writing on the wall yet and well you should fasten your seat belt and get ready for what is ahead. The killing of innocents regardless of the religion, caste creed is wrong and terrorizing for any reason is not justified and acceptable. True Pakistan has many issues and terrorism and religious extremism is rampant which needs to be crushed. The capture of Indian RAW operative is part of this effort and he is not going to get away and there are more have been captured and many more will be soon. We will al know in days to come. Now it has been proven and more facts will be coming out the involvement of Indian RAW in destabilizing Pakistan and terrorizing a killing innocent lives including students.Recommend

  • Shah
    Mar 31, 2016 - 1:04PM

    This Is My Question As WellRecommend

  • Zahid Khan
    Apr 20, 2016 - 3:41PM

    Well can you think of any other excuse please and say something which can be easily swallowed.
    it is important to realize that for not coming out clean at this time will not have any positive consequence for the unfortunate spy caught and his family and his loved ones. Would not it be better to come out clean and accept the mistakes of our past and change the destiny of our current and next generation. It always take two to tango and does not matter who is more responsible for our current situation and the fact is we all are unfortunately.Sooner r later we will come to this conclusion except one hopes it is sooner than later!Recommend

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