THE MINISTRY of External Affairs said on Friday that the Indian national arrested in Balochistan by Pakistani officials was a former Navy official but denied he was linked to the Government.
The acknowledgement came a day after Pakistani officials accused the man, identified as Kulbhushan Jadhav, of “illegal entry” and “subversive activities”, and local media described him as a Commander-rank officer in the Indian Navy and an officer of the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW).
While such allegations by Pakistan have been on an increase in the last couple of years, this is the first instance of New Delhi acknowledging the arrest across the border of an individual associated with its armed forces.
Several Indian diplomats privately expressed surprise at the admission but South Block maintained it had “nothing to hide” — a stance held by India for several decades now — “since the individual was no more associated with the Government”.
But an an Indian diplomat told The Indian Express: “This is, by far, the most high-ranking official — even if he retired some years ago – who has been arrested on Pakistani soil, that too in Balochistan.”
— NDTVIndia (@ndtvindia) March 25, 2016
The Indian response came hours after Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary, Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhary, summoned the High Commissioner in Islamabad, Gautam Bambawale, to protest over what the Foreign Office claimed was the “subversive activities” of a “RAW officer”.
“The Indian High Commissioner was summoned by the Foreign Secretary today, and through a demarche (we) 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,” the Pakistan Foreign Office said in a statement.
In New Delhi, MEA said that the “said individual has no link with the Government since his premature retirement from Indian Navy”, and added that the High Commission has sought consular access. MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup said, “India has no interest in interfering in the internal matters of any country and firmly believes that a stable and peaceful Pakistan is in the interest of all in the region.”
The arrest was reported by local media from the Chaman area of Balochistan in western Pakistan, with some reports claiming that Jadhav has been shifted to Islamabad for interrogation.
According to Pakistan’s Dunya News, Jadhav hails from Mumbai – his address was given as House no. 502-B, Silver Oak Powai, Hiranandani Gardens – and possesses a passport registered under the name of Hussain Mubarak Patel. His passport number is L9630722 and bears an Iranian visa with April 16, 1970, as the date of birth, according to Dunya News. The channel also telecast what it claimed were images of the arrested man as well as scanned copies of his passport.
The channel reported that Jadhav joined R&AW in 2013 after serving Indian Naval intelligence and carried the ID number 41558. It said he was earlier based at Iran’s Chabahar port, which India is helping develop.
Whenever Pakistan has raised the issue of Indian involvement in subversive activities in Balochistan, India has denied it. The only time it found a mention in the official documents was in the Sharm-el-Sheikh joint statement of July 2009. The statement, issued after the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s meeting with Pakistan PM Yousaf Raza Gilani, said, “Prime Minister Gilani mentioned that Pakistan has some information on threats in Balochistan and other areas.”
Indian officials have always said that Pakistan had never been able to substantiate their claims with any concrete evidence in the past. Last August, the Pakistan PM’s advisor on Foreign affairs Sartaj Aziz had said that he would hand over a dossier to National Security Advisor Ajit Doval about India’s alleged interference. He is said to have submitted a report to the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, through Pakistan’s Permanent Representative at the UN, Maleeha Lodhi.
The Express Tribune quoted Pakistan’s Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan saying that the arrest showed a “foreign hand” was behind unrest in the province, which is Pakistan’s largest. A probe was under way, he said, adding that the Pakistani government would seek help from Iran, which borders Balochistan.