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OpinionsHow India can wipe out Pakistan's ISI spy ring

How India can wipe out Pakistan’s ISI spy ring


How can wipe out Pakistan's ISI spy ring

Shantanu Mukharji

We must strengthen counter-intelligence apparatus within the country to effectively foil any designs to harm our facilities.

Of late, Pakistan has intensified its spying activities in India, targeting all important installations aimed at gathering intelligence related to defence, security and other matters of importance.

Spying is an ancient tradecraft which has been in vogue from time immemorial. Pakistan, however, has engaged in this nefarious activity by resorting to crude and the most amateurish means which are more than often marked by indiscretion and belligerence leading to avoidable diplomatic complications.

This argument is buttressed by the fact that the end of the last month saw the arrest of a Samajwadi Party (SP) MP, Munawwar Saleem's PA , Farhat, on charges of selling sensitive documents to the Pakistani ISI operative who, in league with other colleagues, is active under the cover of Pakistani High Commission in New Delhi.

The ISI man, Mehmood Akhtar, was under diplomatic cover and later expelled for his undesirable activities.

Meanwhile, his interrogation has shed light on more ISI staffers in the local High Commission, who were complicit in covert operations against Indian security interests. As many as 16 such personnel are thought to be deeply involved in recruiting agents and tasking them to collect hard intelligence. Intelligence veterans, with vast experience behind them, reckon that there could be more than 16 staffers engaged in such undesirable activities. Also, by now, the spy ring has possibly penetrated into several significant locations and the ISI may already be in possession of copious sensitive information. The aim now is to embark upon taking measures to prevent further damage.

It may be recalled that, in December last year, ISI operatives were nabbed for spying. A BSF head constable posted in the central paramilitary force's intelligence branch, Abdul Rasheed, was passing on information to his handlers. Such was and is the penetration of the ISI. On the one hand, they are collecting information related to the proceedings in Parliament, as seen in the actions of Farhat, aide to the SP MP and on the other targeting the BSF intelligence wing. We must not overlook their diverse targets. The same spy ring, busted last year, was active in garnering intelligence from Meerut and Bareilly cantonments. Even the shipbuilding installation Garden Reach Ship builders and Engineers (GRSE) was not spared. ISRO and other high-profile infrastructure are already on the ISI's target. A hostile ISI is leaving no stone unturned to collect maximum intelligence by employing indiscreet and aggressive means.

Pakistan is currently afflicted with huge internal strife. Terror strikes at regular intervals, the ongoing unrest in Balochistan, Pakistan occupied (PoK)-threatening pursuits of Imran Khan's Tehreek-e-Insaf, et al are factors proving to be thorns in the flesh of the Nawaz Sharif government. In addition, the civilian- military confrontation is at its peak. The India-Pakistan border is also seeing bloody skirmishes amid war-mongering, besides relentless Pakistan military jingoism.

The ISI, therefore, seems to have drawn up a plan to intensify its intelligence collection drive in India, which is amply demonstrative and has reached such a point that Pakistan High Commission diplomats are being expelled for espionage activities.

There are no signs yet to suggest that Pakistan will soften its stand towards India on Kashmir, hence the coming days are expected to see more muscular and robust ISI acts in India. It also proves the extent of desperation Pakistan is suffering from for it is ready to risk its stakes rather than relent.

As is universally known, the ISI is not accountable to anyone. It chalks out its own agenda without any government sanction and resorts to all actions bereft of any basic civility and discretion. Their network in India needs to be busted time and again by the counter intelligence network of Indian agencies. Surveillance on Pakistan High Commission needs to be obtrusive and perhaps aggressive to look deterrent.

India should be seen to be proactive and -like – the messge across the border should be loud and clear! In the meantime, the interrogation of those arrested is likely to give additional leads to our intelligence set-ups for neutralising the agents thriving on ISI payrolls.

This seems imperative to ensure the safety and security of our interests. ISI appears to have an inherent advantage in drafting men for its use in India. Its functioning, therefore, is made simpler. Sadly, India does not have this edge, because on the basis of quid pro quo, it could hurt Pakistan to bleed profusely. Yet, Indian agencies could further strengthen their counter-intelligence apparatus within the country to work in tandem, to effectively foil any ISI designs to harm our facilities.

The author is a retired IPS officer who has held key positions in the Government of India handling sensitive security issues within and outside India.

The Northlines is an independent source on the Web for news, facts and figures relating to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and its neighbourhood.

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