How Pakistan Can Use Kulbhushan Jhadav As Economic Leverage Against India
India has requested complete consular access for Jhadav with no unwanted presence of Pakistani security personnel but seems to forget that Pakistan has not caught a vagabond traveler on the wrong side of the border but a spy whose cover was blown up and who admitted to his guilt, writes Shajeel Zaidi
It was very naïve of our Indian friends to have told the World that Kulbhushan Jhadav was a run of the mill Indian businessman settled in Iran. Their story lends more credence to the Pakistani narrative of Jhadav running a subversive ring inside Balochistan and Karachi from the Iranian port of Chabahar. After all, how many ex-Indian Army or Navy Officers are settled in or doing business in Afghanistan or Iran who are not engaged in espionage activities.
If India’s Ministry of External Affairs really wanted to deny any involvement in terrorist activities in Balochistan, the best way would have been to not even acknowledge his existence and coerce his family to keep mum. And spies understand the code of taciturnity both on an individual level and government level. But Jhadav did not adhere to this himself and his government followed suit.
In the Cold War era, spies from enemy countries were usually not caught red-handed but rather their covers were blown by double-agents and sometimes triple-agents passing on information. Something seems amiss over here. Was Jhadav so callous after 14 years of successfully operating in Pakistan that he was caught speaking Marathi over the phone which did not fit his cover as reported in the now-retracted article on the Indian news website, The Quint? There is a possibility that his name was leaked to Pakistani intelligence from someone working for them within RAW, much as the Soviet double-agent General Polyakov exposed the espionage operations of the British RAF Officer Frank Bossard.
Yet again, some of the best spies have been caught because of minor negligence on their part. Eli Cohen, Mossad’s master spy, who managed to infiltrate the very inner echelons of Syria’s Ministry of Defense was caught because he was transmitting messages via radio at the wrong time.
India has requested complete consular access for Jhadav with no unwanted presence of Pakistani security personnel but seems to forget that Pakistan has not caught a vagabond traveler on the wrong side of the border but a spy whose cover was blown up and who admitted to his guilt. From the other side of the border, there are varying theories of how Pakistan lured Jhadav through a honey trap into Balochistan and then coerced him into making a false confession on video.
Even if we believe that to be true, it does not explain why a supposedly retired Indian Navy Officer was carrying a passport under a different name: Hussain Mubarak Patel. Patel’s passport was apparently issued by Thane Regional Passport Office showing Sangli, Maharashtra as his birthplace. However, investigations by various Indian media outlets reported back in 2016 that Thane Police Commissioner, Param Bir Singh, claimed that no police verification report for that passport was ever issued and Patel’s passport most likely was bogus.
If India’s intelligence agencies were even half-competent, they would have ensured that Hussain Mubarak Patel’s cover was completely foolproof, and all records matched.
When a milk boy in Mumbai’s Silver Oak society can identify the captured Patel as a Jhadav whom he saw on last Holi, it lends more credibility to Pakistan’s version of events. There are elaborate scenarios sketched out in Indian newspapers commenting on the fact that Commander Jhadav was caught 1000 km from the nearest Pakistani port in the Mashakhel region of Chaman whereas he should have been caught somewhere near the Makran coast if he indeed was crossing over to Pakistan.
Indian journalists quip that if he was in Chaman, why did he travel all the way from the Iranian border and through the insurgency invested province rather than take a shorter route from Kandahar in Afghanistan.
Then, an issue is made of the fact that he was also involved in clandestine activities in Karachi which is 800 km from the Iranian border. What these professional journalists from across the border seem to forget is that he was traveling under a valid passport and legally entered Pakistan on the numerous occasions he did, so it would not have mattered had he been caught in Islamabad after hiking all the way from Taftan in Balochistan, which borders Iran.
Even as is egregiously claimed Jhadav was lured as part of a honey trap into Pakistan or was kidnapped by Pakistani agents from within Iran, apart from the legal ramifications of it if it is proven, it does not matter vis-à-vis India’s intelligence and military defeat. Whenever there is a large-scale intelligence operation and especially one aimed at extremely ambitious goals of inciting separatist movements and causing widespread economic destruction, there is a wide network involved.
While Commander Kulbushun Jhadav’s name appears very frequently on both print and electronic media, what is less known is that his multiple sources, contacts, and even junior officers working under him like RAW Sub Inspector Rakesh alias Rizwan were also exposed. This was and still is devastating for India.
In the time since Jhadav’s arrest, India’s version of James Bond, their NSA Ajit Doval might have conjured up novel plans to destabilize Pakistan, the fact remains than since 2016 we have caught two serving Indian Armed Forces officers, one who entered covertly and another who did so overtly, the former via a 4×4, the latter via a Mig-29. Yet, despite the widespread publicity of both these events, despite the unequivocal proof in our hands and our unquestionable tactical victory, we have seemed to lose the plot on both these cases strategically.
The arrest of both Jhadav and Abhinandan gave us massive leverage on India, which we could have used to further our strategic aims. Under what conditions his family could meet him or how the consular access to Indian spy was conducted is a matter of semantics. What is more important is did we in the last 4 years since we have had the spy extract any strategic concessions from India? We could have demanded the release of Pakistani prisoners but since we do not have any serving Officers in Indian custody that would not have been a good quid-pro-quo for us.
Since India is intractable on the Kashmir issue, pushing for better treatment of Kashmiris or easing of restrictions would have been pointless. Rather, Pakistan should have used this spy as a leverage to ask India to move FATF to remove Pakistan from the grey list. Pakistan being on the FATF’s grey list or even blacklist does not make India achieve any of her strategic aims. On the other hand, our removal from the grey list would help our economic conditions, if only slightly.
Even now, rather than kowtowing to Indian wishes or worse releasing him too soon, those at the helm should use the erstwhile officer and spy to advance Pakistan’s case economically, especially since we find ourselves in such a dire economic state right now.
The author works in alternative financing on Wall Street, and has a fascination with modern history and politics.