It’s statecraft with a dash of magic realism, making it mostly impossible to distinguish between truth and falsehood, or fact and fiction. But the headline-grabbing drama, it seems, will not go away so easily now. So, did Pakistani prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani actually hand over a dossier to his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh at Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, detailing India’s role in the secessionist movement in Balochistan and terror activities elsewhere in Pakistan? Manmohan has insisted that no such thing happened, most recently reiterating this line in a debate in Indian Parliament on July 29.
However, a fortnight after Sharm el-Sheikh, sources in the Pakistani foreign service insist a detailed dossier containing evidence of Indian involvement in Balochistan, Swat and Waziristan was handed over. They claim the Indian PM assured Gilani that the Pakistani claims would be investigated and corrective action taken if necessary.
Pak soldiers patrolling in Barikot town, Swat valley, July 13, ’09
They say the evidence lists the safehouses RAW (Research and Analysis Wing, India’s premier foreign intelligence agency) has in Afghanistan, where terrorists are trained and launched for subversive missions in Pakistan. The lengthier part of the dossier reportedly deals with India’s link with insurgents in Balochistan, particularly Brahamdagh Bugti, grandson of the deceased Baloch nationalist leader Nawab Akbar Bugti and his rebel commanders. The file is said to contain documentary evidence of Brahamdagh meeting RAW operatives deployed in Afghanistan.
There are also claims that the Indian consulates in Kandahar and Jalalabad and its embassy in Kabul assist clandestine activities inside Pakistan, particularly in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and Balochistan. Sources say the dossier further mentions a RAW-funded terrorist training camp in Kandahar, where insurgents belonging to the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), particularly those from the Bugti clan, are trained and provided arms and ammunition for carrying out terror activities in Balochistan.
Interior ministry sources say Islamabad had expressed concern over the activities of the Indian intelligence agency in Balochistan in the past too, but this was a first in that it was encapsulated in a dossier and handed over to India. In fact, while addressing an in-camera sitting of the Senate on April 23, 2009, interior minister Rehman Malik had accused India of backing the BLA, the organisation alleged to be fanning unrest in the province. The prime aim behind the in-camera session of the Upper House was to show members of Parliament that foreign agencies were involved in a concerted conspiracy against the country—especially in Balochistan.
“Gwadar Port could be a key global junction. The US and india are in balochistan to complete their hidden agenda.” —Baloch rebel leader Brahamdagh Bugti
The state-run news agency, Associated Press of Pakistan (APP), quoted Malik telling the Senate, “The BLA remained dormant since the Afghan war (with Russia) ended but it was reactivated after the killing of Akbar Bugti, whose grandson Brahamdagh Bugti, has openly sought Indian and American support for independence of Balochistan in a recent interview.” He further claimed in his deposition to the Senate that the Indian consulate in the Iranian city of Zahedan, bordering Balochistan, was involved in financing subversive activities in the troubled province. Malik, subsequently, reiterated these charges in an interview with a French television channel on July 27, saying India was interfering in Balochistan by supplying weapons to terrorists there.
There are some who wonder at the credibility of the Pakistani allegations against India’s role in Balochistan, arguing that it makes greater sense for New Delhi to target Punjab or Sindh, the two most important Pakistani provinces. But senior analyst Sajjad Shaukat counters, “Balochistan is replete with mineral resources and with the development of the Gwadar port, it could prove to be the country’s key junction, connecting the rest of the world with Central Asia. It is primarily due to the multiple strategic benefits that the United States, which has signed a nuclear cooperation deal with India, now intends to control Balochistan as an independent state, which will also help contain China and subdue Iran. This is why America and India are backing the Baloch separatists to complete their hidden agenda.”
Shaukat says this “hidden agenda” was articulated in the Indian Defence Review issue of Jan-March 2009. The Review, while suggesting the disintegration of Pakistan, indicated that for New Delhi “this opens a window of opportunity to ensure that the Gwadar port does not fall into the hands of China. Afghanistan will gain stability...India’s access to Central Asian energy routes will open up.” The foreign powers’ designs on Balochistan will hopefully prompt Islamabad to address the genuine grievances of the Baloch people. “Otherwise, external hands will keep on exploiting the Balochistan issue, causing irreparable damage to the integrity of the country,” Shaukat says.
Balochistan apart, the sources say the Pakistani dossier also included pictures of several non-Muslims (all of them uncircumcised), who had been killed during the ongoing Pakistani military action in the Swat valley. In addition, proof of Indian involvement in terror financing in Pakistan has also been provided to New Delhi, along with the names of Indian agents who had crossed the border to link up with militants on the Pakistani side of Wagah. In other words, India is accused of not only fishing in the troubled waters of Balochistan, but destabilising a large swathe of Pakistan.
The dossier further reveals details of an Indian hand in the attacks on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore on March 3, 2009, and the Manawan police training academy. There are claims that the authorities have identified the RAW operatives in touch with the perpetrators of the attacks. Proof of their interaction, it seems, has been attached to the dossier handed over to New Delhi. Some, though, say these claims appear feeble—the Pakistan police had earlier concluded that the attack on the Sri Lankan team was carried out by a sectarian Sunni group, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which wanted to hijack the bus to seek the release of their arrested amir, Akram Lahori. The Punjab police had first accused the Lashkar-e-Toiba of carrying out the 3/3 attack in Lahore. It seems unlikely, feel some, that New Delhi would back an obscurantist Sunni militant group known for its hatred towards India.
In the March 30 attack on the Manawan police training academy, Lahore police chief Pervaiz Rathore had talked of India’s involvement, claiming the perpetrators were pro-India Afghans. When his attention was drawn to Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud claiming responsibility for the Manawan attack, the Lahore police chief had said: “It’s a well-known fact that Mehsud is paid to create terror...he can do anything for the sake of money.”
So who’s speaking the truth, Pakistan or India, Gilani or Manmohan? In a July 23 editorial, ‘The RAW Dossier’, the English daily Dawn aptly stated that “no one expects either India or Pakistan for that matter to accept charges of state-sponsored interference in a neighbouring country. Stopping the meddling is more important than the manner in which it is brought to an end. It is the final result that counts. If there are rogue elements within RAW who are acting independently, they must be taken to task forthwith. At the same time, Pakistan also needs to put its own intelligence agencies under the microscope and determine whether a similar cull is needed here.”
Consulting editor of Daily Times, Khaled Ahmed, says both India and Pakistan have been playing spy games with each other since 1947. If India is fomenting trouble in Balochistan, Pakistan is still reported to be meddling in India’s northeastern states with help from its friends in Bangladesh. Therefore, Ahmed argues, India and Pakistan have to vow to give up their covert wars against each other. “The sooner the two countries resume the normalisation process, the better it would be for both since there is no alternative to peace between the two nuclear-armed neighbours,” he concludes.