Kulbushan Jhadav Case
image via flickr

On Wednesday, July 17th, a landmark verdict on Kulbushan Jhadav Case, came from UN’s top court, International Court of Justice, involving Pakistan, India and a supposed Indian spy who was caught in ‘action’ some three years ago. The Kulbushan Jhadav Case is a case study to understand the evolution of espionage system in the contemporary world, provided, obviously if he is a spy.

In Indian movies, the character of a spy is always magnified as that of a hero, who almost always turns out to be elusive and too smart to be nabbed by the dull antagonists, who are usually Pakistan’s Inter-service Intelligence or ISI. However, the myth of an Indian spy’s invincibility remains confined to the Indian movies, and in reality, the spy’s are usually not as smart as they are projected in the Bollywood.

On March 03, 2016, Pakistani authorities intercepted a man on Iran-Pakistan border, trying to enter into the country. It was not until 22 days elapsed before Pakistan finally informed India about the development through a press release. India immediately sought consular access to its national, Kulbushan Jhadav, whose confessional statements contradicted with the claims made not only by Indian authorities but his own family.

Pakistani sources claimed that Jhadav confessed before a magistrate that he was assigned by India’s spy agency, Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), to “plan and organize espionage and sabotage activities” across Pakistan. According to a medical report released by Pakistan’s Foreign Office Kulbushan Jhadav was born in the state of Maharashtra on April 15, 1969. However, his fake passport showed him as some Hossein Mubarak Patel, who was born on August 30, 1968. In his confessional statement also, he admitted being a serving officer in the Indian Navy. While his claim has been denied by Indian authorities as well as by his own family, that maintained he had been an officer in Indian Navy before his premature retirement after which he became a businessman. His frequent traveling is also linked to the nature of his business.

But Jhadav has a different story to tell: that he commenced intelligence operations in 2003 and ostensibly established himself as a businessman in Iran, where he worked as a RAW agent, with a core purpose to continue subversive activities against Pakistan. From Iran, he confessed, he penetrated deep into Pakistan undetected, twice. He cited his visits to Karachi in 2003 and 2004. His spy mission also included the meetings with anti-state Baloch insurgents and to plan coordinated attacks against the citizens.

Kulbushan Jhadav case is also unusual in the sense that not only his arrest is disputed, but also the verdict has different meanings for both countries. Pakistani version suggests he was arrested in Baluchistan, the version that was also corroborated by New York Times’s April 10th issue in 2017. However, Indian side blames that Pakistani authorities operating in Iran kidnaped Jhadav.

The difference of opinion between two enemy states is also manifest and lingering on in the last week’s verdict, which is interestingly hailed by both as the success of their respective national narrative. India hails it as its victory by highlighting ICJ’s directive that Pakistan should allow India the consular access to Jhadav, besides reviewing the court martial that awarded the spy a death sentence while Pakistan applauds ICJ’s decision on Jhadav because it rejected India’s appeals, including his release and safe passage.

Kulbushan Jhadav case is an interesting case study, suggesting that the invincibility of spies is a myth and limited to movies only. In movies, they are too smart to be ‘kidnapped’ or ‘arrested’; and when they are (in movies) arrested by chance, they prefer a dignified silence and death to a humiliating plea to kindness from the enemy state against they had been carrying out subversive activities.