Sentencing of Indian spy
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| 4/12/2017 12:00:00 AM
HIRTEEN months since the arrest was sensationally disclosed, the case of accused Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav has taken a darker turn. Convicted by a military tribunal for espionage and sabotage activities against Pakistan, Jadhav has been sentenced to death. Instantly, the already troubled India-Pakistan relationship has been plunged into deep uncertainty. Despite Jadhav`s conviction, there remain many unanswered questions. Start with the official Indian version of events and the many reports in the Indian media.

Simply, the explanations offered by India are not credible. Everything from Jadhav`s official documentation to his alleged business ties in Iran suggest a spy`s cover story. The Iran-Pakistan-Afghanistan border region is a vast, sparsely populated area with well-known security and strategic dimensions. Pakistan has long claimed that outside powers have tried to both meddle in Balochistan and use the border region to destabilise Pakistan as a whole. Jadhav`s arrest and now conviction suggest an effort by the security establishment to put a face on the long-alleged crimes against Pakistan.

After years of allegations, the broad contours of Indian involvement in Balochistan in particular, perhaps Karachi too, have become apparent. The present right-wing government in India may be more frank in its willingness to pursue covert actions against Pakistan and may have ratcheted up those activities, but Indian interference in Balochistan has been a steady complaint of the Pakistani state for over a decade. It is not clear what India hopes to achieve through such activity. Among more hawkish elements in the state and conservative elements in society here, the Indian interference has become yet another reason to not seek engagement with that country. As for the long-running Baloch insurgency, rooted in some legitimate political grievances, the taint of any association with India is enough to put the insurgency`s goals even further out of reach. All such interference appears to achieve in the province is a small and bloody-minded sense of retaliation. It must stop.

Finally, there are questions about the way forward. Spy wars between India and Pakistan erupt on occasion; the tit-for-tat actions against high commission officials in Islamabad and New Delhi last year being the most recent public incident. But Jadhav`s case is far beyond routine action and could herald a new, highly destabilising round of covert actions by one country against the other`s security and intelligence apparatus. It can only be hoped that back-channel communications or third-party interventions will help India and Pakistan quickly de-escalate tensions and, if necessary, establish new rules on the spycraft that all countries carry. Surely, no matter what the unspoken rules of spycraft may be, there ought to be no space for Indian nationals to be prowling around in Balochistan, let alone unauthorised entry anywhere in the territory of a nuclear-armed rival.

The case of Kulbhushan Jadhav must not be allowed to repeat itself.