Spying is an old normal. Every country spies on every other, no matter how friendly or close. Remember the hacking of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone by the US agencies which became global headline news in October 2013? At about the same time the US was also accused of spying on France. Both countries were traditionally counted as US allies.
The CIA has, in the meanwhile, acquired the ability to break into Android and iPhone handsets, and all kinds of computers. Apps like Signal, Telegram and WhatsApp are rendered entirely insecure. The CIA could also use smart TVs to listen in on conversations that happened around them. The agency is said to have explored hacking into cars and crashing them, allowing ‘nearly undetectable assassinations’.
The global spying game or what is called the shadow war goes on round the clock, every minute, every hour of the day, week and month and year after year without a break. But most of it is conducted—spying and spy catching—far from the public glare. Even great feats of spying most of the time never get to be publicly recognised or rewarded perhaps to protect from backlash those not directly involved in spying but somehow linked to these unsung heroes.
Spies of other countries caught red-handed too are more often than not arranged to go missing rather than allowed the due process of law because of a number of reasons. Sometimes, it is done not to embarrass a friendly government. At others it is to avoid making a public host country’s own secret methods of catching spies that may have involved honey trapping or infiltration into the other country’s inner most circle of spying agencies, its police, even the army, civil service or political organisations.
However, at times spy catching is not only conducted in the public glare but it is also exploited to the hilt to cause public embarrassment to the country that had sent in the spy in question or had hired one from the domestic market. This public display of catching the spy is also resorted to at times to pre-empt some similar move from a hostile country.
So, it is more the timing that needs to be checked to determine the probable reason or reasons for making public with such emphatic wrath as is being done in the case of Kulbhushan Jadhav’s arrest rather than the extent and magnitude of terrorism that the spy in question is alleged to have fomented in Balochistan.
The significance of the timing gets more interesting when one recalls that the arrest of Kulbhushan who was allegedly operating from Chabahar in Iran was announced on March 25, 2016 when Iranian President Hassan Rowhani was on an official state visit to Pakistan.
Reacting to some of the news reports in Pakistani media concerning the arrest and the Indian spy’s links to Iran the Iranian Embassy in Islamabad had immediately slammed these reports and said that elements unhappy over promotion of ties between the two Muslim countries were trying in various ways, to lower the significant achievements during the visit of President Rowhani to Pakistan.
Similarly, it is difficult not to view with a degree of curiosity the timing of the announcement that the army has taken into its custody Lyari gang war leader Uzair Baloch for allegedly spying for Iran right after the Field General Court Martial had handed down the death sentence to Kulbhushan who was allegedly operating clandestinely from Iran. Uzair Baloch was arrested by the Rangers on the outskirts of Karachi last year. The army is said to have taken him into custody on charges of espionage (leakage of sensitive security information to foreign intelligence agencies) under the Pakistan Army Act of 1952 and the Official Secrets Act of 1923.
It would be highly irresponsible to speculate one way or the other on any connection between Uzair and Kulbhushan episodes or for that matter on any nexus between India and Iran flowing out of these two episodes. Still, in the larger strategic and national interests of Pakistan, one would expect the government and all its subsidiary wings to handle the emerging situation with enough care and prudence to rule out the possibility of new fronts of conflict opening on our borders.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 15th, 2017.
Like Opinion & Editorial on Facebook, follow @ETOpEd on Twitter to receive all updates on all our daily pieces.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ