Crisis looms over Pakistan’s impending execution of alleged Indian spy

Kulbhushan JadhavAnalysts warn that South Asia may witness its worst crisis since the 2008 Mumbai attacks if Pakistan carries out its threat to execute an Indian former naval officer whom it accuses of espionage. Authorities in Islamabad say Kulbhushan Jadhav (pictured) worked for the Indian Navy until 2003, when he was recruited by India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), a government intelligence agency that conducts operations abroad. The Pakistanis claim that Jadhav was arrested in southwest Pakistan in 2016, where he was engaged in funding and training secessionist militants from Pakistan’s Baluch minority. The Baluch are an Iranic people, most of whom live in a region known as Baluchistan, which is split between Iran and Pakistan. There are populous Baluch communities in the southern city of Karachi, one of Pakistan’s most populous ports. Some members of the Baluch community have secessionist aspirations and are accused of terrorism by Iranian and Pakistani authorities.

Soon after Jadhav’s arrest in March 2016, the Pakistani military released excerpts of an alleged videotaped confession by the Indian former naval officer. In it, Jadhav can be seen confessing to having worked on instructions by the Indian government to inflame ethnic divisions in Pakistan, from 2013 until his arrest. Last month, a secret military court in Pakistan sentenced Jadhav to death on charges of espionage. India, however, has rejected Pakistan’s allegations, saying that Jadhav’s confession was extracted through torture. The Indians claim that Jadhav was kidnapped by Pakistani operatives in Iran and brought to Pakistan by force. Indian officials dismissed Islamabad’s claim Jadhav was carrying his Indian passport when the Pakistanis captured him, saying that no undercover intelligence officer operating abroad would be carrying an Indian passport. New Delhi has warned of “serious consequences” if Pakistan engages in “premeditated murder” by executing Jadhav.

Some observers have noted that Jadhav was tried by a secret court martial, which signifies a radical break from standard practice. Moreover, the public announcements about his fate were made by the Pakistani military, rather than the civilian government, which is unprecedented. This leads some analysts to the conclusion that the Jadhav case is being handled solely by the military, which is trying to use Jadhav’s case to dissuade the government in Islamabad from reaching out to India with an offer for negotiations. There are also suggestions that the timing of Jadhav’s sentence might indicate that Islamabad hopes to exchange him for one or more of its intelligence officers that are being held by India.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 17 April 2017 | Permalink

Sri Lanka expels Indian spy official for meddling in elections

Maithripala SirisenaBy IAN ALLEN |
The government of Sri Lanka has expelled a senior Indian intelligence official, accusing him of meddling in national elections that took place earlier this month. Sri Lanka’s President, Mahinda Rajapaksa, stepped down on January 9 after losing a nationwide electoral contest to his former cabinet aide and main contender for the post, Maithripala Sirisena. Sirisena led a coalition of opposition parties and figures, including several of Rajapaksa’s government ministers, who defected to the opposition en masse in the months leading to the election. Rajapaksa’s defeat surprised observers, who believed he would easily win a successive third term in office. Since 2005, when he was first elected president, Rajapaksa led an all-out military campaign against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE, also known as Tamil Tigers), after dismissing a prior truce deal between the government and the separatist group as “treasonous”. Under his leadership, the Sri Lankan military drove the Tigers out of Sri Lanka’s entire Eastern Province, reducing the extent of the group’s territorial control by 95%. However, relations with India, a traditional Sri Lankan ally, deteriorated drastically under Rajapaksa’s leadership. New Delhi became concerned that Colombo was making too many openings toward India’s geopolitical rival China. Late last year the Indian government protested after Sri Lanka permitted Chinese submarines to dock there without first informing its northern neighbor. On December 28, Sri Lankan media alleged that the senior representative of India’s Research and Analysis Wing in Colombo had been expelled from the country due to his behind-the-scenes support of the opposition’s electoral campaign. According to Sri Lankan sources, it was the Indian intelligence official who convinced Sirisena to resign from President Rajapaksa’s cabinet and run against him. The Indian intelligence operative then hosted secret meetings between Sirisena and other opposition figures, during which a united political front against Rajapaksa was formed. The allegations were also reported by the Reuters news agency on January 18, in an article that cited “political and intelligence sources” in Sri Lanka and India. New Delhi denied the allegations, saying that the intelligence official had been replaced because his overseas tour had expired, not because he had been expelled by authorities in Colombo. Meanwhile, the newly installed President Sirisena said he intends visit New Delhi on his first foreign trip in February, adding that India will form his government’s “first, main concern” on matters of foreign policy.

News you may have missed #729 (intel blunder edition)

Alleged Venezuelan 'spy crossword'By IAN ALLEN | |
►►US drones ‘incidentally’ spy on Americans. A leaked US Air Force document stipulates that a drone that happens to capture surveillance images of Americans may store them for a period of 90 days. The paper appears to justify spying on citizens, as long as it is “incidental”. The document accepts that the Air Force may not record information non-consensually; however it does state: “collected imagery may incidentally include US persons or private property without consent”. The report, dated April 23 was discovered by Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists and has been put online.
►►Indian intel blunder sparks anger in Pakistan. India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) intelligence agency sparked outrage in Pakistan and self-deprecatory jokes in India itself last week, after it listed ordinary Pakistani shopkeepers as terrorists on a mission to attack some of India’s landmark institutions. RAW, which is considered India’s premier intelligence agency, issued an advisory to state governments in which it said that five trained militants from Pakistan’s banned Lashkar-e-Taiba group had sneaked into India with fake identities to attack a nuclear facility, oil refinery, seaport and defense academy. Within hours after photographs of the five men were released, a Pakistani television channel reported that two of the three men on the list were shopkeepers and one was a guard, all living in Lahore, and that none of them had ever left Pakistan.
►►Venezuelan spies face criticism over ‘crossword puzzle’ plot. Venezuelan government critics, and even some supporters, are ridiculing a Venezuelan state TV host’s allegation that a newspaper crossword puzzle may have had a hidden call for a plot to kill President Hugo Chavez’s elder brother. Intelligence agents questioned Neptali Segovia, the author of the puzzle, after state TV presenter Miguel Perez Pirela pointed out that Wednesday’s crossword contained the word “ASESINEN”, or kill, intersecting with the name of Chavez’s brother, “ADAN”. He noted they were below the word “RAFAGAS”, meaning either gusts of wind or bursts of gunfire.

News you may have missed #713 (analysis edition)

RAW headquarters, New Delhi, IndiaBy IAN ALLEN | |
►►Israel wary of changes in the Arab world. For decades, Israel had been hoping for change in the Arab world. Yet now that the region is in upheaval, its not just Israeli citizens who are concerned. The government has shown a preference for walling itself in rather than exploring new opportunities. The Jewish state has tried to integrate itself into the Middle East for decades. Now it is trying to cut the cord between itself and the surrounding region, blocking out the changes in its neighborhood.
►►Melting Arctic may redraw global geopolitical map. If, as many scientists predict, currently inaccessible sea lanes across the top of the world become navigable in the coming decades, they could redraw global trading routes —and perhaps geopolitics— forever. This summer will see more human activity in the Arctic than ever before, with oil giant Shell engaged in major exploration and an expected further rise in fishing, tourism and regional shipping. But that, experts warn, brings with it a rising risk of environmental disaster not to mention criminal activity from illegal fishing to smuggling and terrorism.
►►Why Indian intelligence doesn’t work too well in Pakistan. Sources in the RAW, India’s external agency, say India lacks both political will and the capability to carry out a hit inside Pakistan. “We do not have the mandate to do what Mossad does. Our charter does not include the job of getting [or assassinating] people from other countries. If such political will is there, the agency would be able to do it”, says a senior RAW official. Another former officer, who has spent a considerable time studying these outfits, attributes it to the fundamental difference between India and Pakistan in dealing with espionage. “It takes a great deal of money and time to cultivate sources in foreign soil. We don’t have either in plenty, unlike countries in the West. Pakistan’s ISI is better off in this as the state sponsors terrorism”, he says.

News you may have missed #663

X-37B spaceplaneBy IAN ALLEN | |
►►Indian spy agency seeks more wiretap powers. As intelNews reported in December, India’s primary intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) was granted unfettered access to intercept electronic communications inside India. According to reports from India, the country’s Department of Telecommunications has now asked Interpol to help it gain access to encrypted electronic communications exchanged over Skype, BlackBerry telephones, etc. But doesn’t the Indian government already have access to BlackBerry communications?
►►US spaceplane spying on China. America’s classified X-37B spaceplane is probably spying on China, according to a report in Spaceflight magazine. The unpiloted vehicle was launched into orbit by the US Air Force in March last year and has yet to return to Earth. The Pentagon has steadfastly refused to discuss its mission but amateur space trackers have noted how its path around the globe is nearly identical to China’s spacelab, Tiangong-1.
►►Mossad seeks Chinese speakers. Do you speak Chinese? If so, Israel’s Mossad needs you. Recently, the spy agency put up a job posting on its website for a strategic researcher. The ad notes that preference will be given to Chinese, Arabic and Persian speakers. Experience in intelligence work is also a plus. Notably, China maintains close relations with Iran and with Arab states, possibly prompting the Mossad to seek Chinese speakers for its current and future intelligence work.

News you may have missed #653: India edition

Research and Analysis WingBy IAN ALLEN | |
►►India’s external intel agency gets wiretapping powers. India’s government has given the country’s external intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), the right to intercept domestic phone calls, emails and voice and data communications. This is the first time that RAW has been authorized to intercept communications inside the country. Should Indian citizens be bracing for more political policing?
►►India uncovers alleged Pakistan honey trap operation. A lieutenant colonel in the Indian Army was reportedly caught in a ‘honey trap’ by Pakistani intelligence agencies, as a result of which he was forced to spy for them against Indian interests, according to Indian media. The officer was allegedly in Bangladesh this past summer to attend a course at a military academy, when he was trapped by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), sources said. What is it with Indian government employees and honey trap operations?
►►Indian arrested for spying for Pakistan. Indian police in Rajasthan said it arrested Pawan Kumar Sharma, a clerk working at the regional Sub-Divisional Magistrate’s office in Suratgarh town, on charges of spying for Pakistan. Authorities said Sharma is suspected of spying for Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate for the past year-and-a-half, using a prepaid cell phone provided by the ISI.

News you may have missed #305

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News you may have missed #0178

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News you may have missed #0127

  • Is China using Nepal as a base to spy on India? India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) has accused Beijing of using the so-called Nepal-China study centers in Nepal to spy on India. The centers, which are located all along the Indo-Nepal border, are being used to clandestinely gather information on Indian activities, says RAW. It also rumored that RAW is monitoring around 30 Chinese firms which have set up base in Nepal and may be involved in spying on India.
  • Italian lawyers seek jail for CIA agents. Public prosecutors in Italy have urged a court in Milan to jail 26 Americans for the kidnapping of a terrorism suspect in a 2003 CIA operation on Italian soil. They also want a 13 year prison sentence for the former head of Italy’s secret service, Nicolo Pollari. Last week the US government moved for the first time to officially prevent Italian authorities from prosecuting American citizens involved in the CIA operation.
  • CIA director meets Pakistani spy chief. The director of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Ahmed Shuja Pasha, has met with CIA director Leon Panetta in Washington. Last week, Lieutenant General Pasha yelled at a US journalist for daring to utter the CIA’s allegations that the ISI is withholding crucial intelligence information on al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

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Analysis: Pakistan’s former spy chief sees wider geopolitical games in region

Hamid Gul

Hamid Gul

Lieutenant General Hamid Gul, the controversial former Director General of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), has expressed the view that Pakistan’s nuclear disarmament is the ultimate aim of the US-Indian alliance. Speaking to reporters in Islamabad, Gul said India’s insistence on charging the ISI with complicity in the 2008 Mumbai attack is “part of a greater conspiracy to discredit the body for being an extension of the Pakistan Army” and eventually questioning the latter’s role as guardian of the country’s nuclear arsenal. “Once the Army and the ISI are demolished [the US and India] will reach out to our nuclear capability saying it is not is safe hands”, said the retired Lieutenant General. In discussing the increasing military and political collaboration between the US and India, Gul noted that “the Americans and Israel [are] hell-bent that India should be given pre-eminence in the region”, acting as the dominant regional power. He described such a scenario as essentially positioning India to the role of overseer of “60 per cent of the world’s trade [which] passes through the Indian Ocean”, including transport routes of “Gulf oil, bound for China and Japan, [which] will be under the shadow of India’s sole nuclear power”. Read more of this post

Hi-tech Mumbai attacks pose forensics problems for intel agencies

The barriers to government-authorized communications interception posed by the increasing use of Internet-based communications systems by militants or criminals are nothing new. Intelligence and law enforcement agencies have been struggling with this issue since the late 1990s, when audio-enabled instant messenger services began to rise in popularity. In 2005, a brief report in Time magazine correctly described Internet-based audio communications as a “massive technological blind spot” troubling FBI wiretap experts. It has now emerged that last month the Pakistani militant group, Lashkar-e-Taiba, used voice-over-Internet-protocol (VOIP) software to communicate with the Mumbai attackers on the ground and direct the large scale operation on a real-time basis. Read more of this post


On December 1, we reported that accusing Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency of complicity in the recent militant attack of selected targets in Mumbai overlooks the responsibility of Indian intelligence agencies to prevent such attacks. We [^1] specifically pointed to revelations in Indian newspapers that “clear warnings of a coming assault were ignored” by local police forces and “that Indian intelligence agencies had precise information at least 10 months ago that Pakistani militants were planning an attack” but failed to act. It now appears that the infamous operational disconnect between Indian intelligence and police agencies has resulted in the arrest of an actual Indian undercover agent in connection with the Mumbai attacks. Specifically, last weekend the Calcutta police arrested two Indians who had used false identities to purchase 22 subscriber identity module (SIM) cards later used by militants who participated in the Mumbai attacks.

One of the arrestees is Mukhtar Ahmed, an Indian from Jammu Kashmir. It later emerged that Ahmed was in fact an Indian counterintelligence agent working on a “long-term [infiltration] mission with police in Indian-administered Kashmir”. Among his tasks was procuring “SIM cards for Lashkar-e-Taiba [^1] fighters and pass the numbers to police so that all calls from those numbers could be monitored by intelligence”. Unnamed senior Indian counterintelligence sources say that Ahmed’s arrest has blown “a high-value asset” and that Ahmed’s family is now “at risk”. Indian counterintelligence officials are further frustrated by the release of Ahmed’s name by the Calcutta police, even though local police officials had been told “categorically to keep shut on the entire Mumbai investigations”. It appears that Calcutta officials believed they had a “huge catch and [simply] wanted publicity”. [IA]

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CIA alerted Indian intelligence about pending attacks

On December 1, 2008, we suggested that simply blaming Pakistani intelligence agencies for the recent Mumbai attacks “overlooks the responsibility of Indian intelligence agencies to prevent such attacks by militants”. We cited recent revelations in Indian newspapers that “clear warnings of a coming assault were ignored” and “that Indian intelligence agencies had precise information at least 10 months ago that Pakistani militants were planning an attack”, but failed to act. Indian newspaper The Hindu is now revealing that there were at least two occasions on which the CIA delivered to India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) “warnings of an impending terror attack on Mumbai”. Read more of this post

Comment: India’s intelligence, police force part of the problem

It is fine to accuse the Pakistani Army and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency of complicity in the recent attack by a small army of selected targets in Mumbai, but this overlooks the responsibility of Indian intelligence agencies to prevent such attacks by militants. Those who criticize the ISI are ignoring the recent revelations in Indian newspapers that “clear warnings of a coming assault were ignored” and “that Indian intelligence agencies had precise information at least 10 months ago that Pakistani militants were planning an attack” but failed to act. Read more of this post

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