Pakistan claimed it arrested an “Indian spy”, Kulbhushan Jadhav, on March 26, 2016 in its restive Balochistan province. New Delhi refuted the claim, saying the person is a former Indian Navy officer who took voluntary retirement to do business.
Pakistani media reported that the alleged Indian spy had residency permit of Iran and crossed over to Balochistan border. It was also reported that he had a passport (number is L9630722) under the name Hussain Mubarak Patel. His place of birth is mentioned as Sangli, Maharashtra.
India sees the allegations as the neighbouring country’s ploy to counter India’s involvement in the construction of Chabahar port, which is a major concern for Pakistan. The strategically important port gives India a direct access to Afghanistan and other central Asian countries bypassing Pakistan.
New Delhi says Kulbhushan Jadhav was doing business in Chabahar. He has no involvement with any government activity.
On March 29 last year, Pakistan released a videotape in which the former Indian Navy officer admitted funding Baloch insurgents. New Delhi pointed out several loopholes in the tape and suspected that Jadhav must have been coerced to say so.
India demanded counselor access—a country’s rights to get in touch with its citizen arrested in foreign shores— but Pakistan has denied any access so far.
Pakistan has a chequered history in dealing with people they have dubbed as Indian spies. Sarabjit Singh, a farmer who strayed into Pakistani territory had died in a Pakistani jail after he was attacked by other prisoners. Pakistani authorities had repeatedly denied pleas of New Delhi to release Singh.
In this case, intelligence officials say, “It is still not clear whether he was lured into Balochistan or picked up after he strayed into Pakistani territory -- land or water.”
To build up its case, Pakistan army chief General Raheel Sharif met visiting Iranian president and pointed out the arrest of the spy to underline India’s external intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing’s (RAW’s) alleged interference in Balochistan.
Jadhav’s colleagues say he graduated as a naval engineer in 1990 from the National Defence Academy. He completed 14 years in the navy and rose to the rank of a commander. According to his family, he set up business in Chabahar free trade zone. His business includes servicing boats and ferries.
India says its inquiries reveal that he apparently was being harassed while operating a legitimate business from Iran.
“His presence now in Pakistan raises questions, including the possibility of his abduction from Iran. This would become clear only if we are given consular access to him and we urge the government of Pakistan to respond immediately to our request,” the external affairs ministry said in a statement.
A version of this story was first published on March 30, 2016