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Spy-for-Spy Diplomacy?

by Newsweek Pakistan

Aamir Qureshi—AFP

There is little to be gained in killing each other’s spies

On Friday, Dec. 8, Pakistan announced that it would allow the wife and mother of the arrested Indian spy, Kulbhushan Jadhav, to meet him on humanitarian grounds on Dec. 25. It has also allowed an Indian embassy official to accompany them, as requested by New Delhi. The two countries are contesting the Jadhav case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague. This is clearly an “olive branch” gesture on the part of Islamabad. Why has this happened?

Some say it is going to be a case of exchange of spies or a “spy-for-spy” game instead of spy-versus-spy. In April this year, India caught Muhammad Habib Zahir, “the retired Lt. Col. of the Pakistan Army who disappeared from Lumbini near Nepal’s border with India and now suspected to be in Indian custody” because “he was in the team that nabbed Kulbhushan Jadhav in March 2016” according to Indian Express. On the Pakistani side Zahir was lured into going to Nepal on the phone with offers of big money.

It is quite clear that this time around Pakistan will not be able to hang Jadhav for doubtful emotional satisfaction because a further deterioration of Indo-Pak equation is not desired by anyone in the world, including the ICJ judges.

Pakistan and India have gained little by killing each other’s spies: Sarabjit Singh was arrested by Pakistan in August 1990 for carrying out four bombings in Faisalabad, Multan and Lahore, killing 14 citizens. He was later sentenced to death and died in 2013. Kashmir Singh spent 35 years on death row while avowing he was not a spy but was allowed to return home. Ravindra Kaushik succeeded in joining Pakistan Army and was promoted to major while passing sensitive information back home. He was caught and died in jail after 16 years.

Given a more sophisticated current leadership of Pakistan Army, it is hoped that the two countries will agree on an exchange of prisoners and not resort to committing bilateral homicide of dubious strategic value.

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