The Punjab police have apprehended yet another Pakistani pigeon which may or may not have been injected into India by the ISI. The fact that it bore English markings naming a town and district in Pakistan was found to be deeply suspicious. If it had been discovered in an Incredible India T-shirt, it might have escaped suspicion. But the Urdu markings on its plumage sealed its doom. Inspected and interrogated in at least two languages, reportedly, the bird is now under police guard.
The age when carrier pigeons played a crucial role in intelligence and warfare is well over, but we are not birdbrains. We shall permit no Pakistani kabootarbaazi or aerial incursions. For though military carrier pigeon units on our side have been disbanded, our neighbour may not have returned the favour. Besides, as data shrinks in volume, carrier pigeons assume greater strategic importance. A bird armed with a memory card can do a cross border information trade of encyclopaedic proportions. Add a sim card and you have the beginnings of a secret and possibly malevolent communications network.
But hold on. That line of reasoning goes to an awful place where either General Musharraf or Dawood Ibrahim is at the bottom of everything. While our ability to catch pigeons from Pakistan is remarkable — at least one suspicious character bearing Urdu calligraphy is caught every five years — it is perfectly natural for birds to disregard political borders. What ought to intrigue us is the other side of the story. We aggressively pursue cases of Indians in Pakistani jails, but we are strangely disinterested in Indian pigeons in Pakistani custody. Do they bear Devanagari markings? And do they read something like “Property of Vishnunagar Pigeon Racing Club, Parvatipur”?