News Analysis |
An Indian national by the name Ravi Kumar supposedly working as a Pakistani secret agent has been arrested. The news agency Press Trust of India reported the news on Friday, 30th of March. Indian authorities claim he was working as a spy for Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI. However, there is little evidence, if any, to back up these claims.
The Punjab Police of India has said that the man was arrested in Amritsar district in the north-western state of Punjab near the Chatiwind police station. The State Special Operations Cell (SSOC) and Military Intelligence together arrested Kumar. But who is Ravi Kumar? What’s his background? What is his qualification and profession? Where does he belong to? These details have not been released.
TV reports in India claim Kumar had photographs of vital installations, hand-made maps of restricted areas, photocopies of restricted training manuals of the Army and information regarding Army attack formations. The ‘preliminary investigation’ seems to have revealed that he was recruited via Facebook over seven months ago. If he really was a spy, why would he give up such sensitive information in a preliminary investigation? Not giving up information and identity is what spies are especially trained for.
How did Kumar manage to get photocopies of restricted training manuals of the Indian Army? Did he have contacts in the Indian Army that gave him information regarding attack formations? Did he take photographs of vital installations from his phone? What are these vital installations exactly? And perhaps the most important questions is, why would he do all this?
The claim made by authorities in India that someone working on behalf of the ISI possessed ‘hand-made maps’ is not new. Ajmal Kasab, who was accused of perpetrating the Mumbai terror attacks and then hanged, also had hand-drawn maps. An Indian Judge at the time ruled that better maps could be obtained with the help of the internet or via google maps than the ones Kasab had got from his associates, Faheem Ansari and Sabauddin Sheikh. Interestingly, Faheem Ansari’s lawyer was shot down in what many described as a targeted killing.
The report by Press Trust of India also claims Ravi Kumar flew to Dubai to meet with his ISI handlers from February 20th to the 24th. His trip to Dubai was apparently funded by Pakistani intelligence agency and he was briefed there about his tasks. TV reports in Indian media also claim he was receiving funds from the ISI. It is claimed that information with regard to the movement of “Army units, construction of new bunkers on the Indian side of the border, photographs of Army vehicles and their formation signs, exercises and trainings and activity/construction” was given to his handlers by him.
Reportedly, the spy had been contacting the ISI regularly over his phone, the internet and Facebook.
Several questions are worth raising here. Why have meetings in Dubai? What evidence is there to support these claims? Media reports are not definite proof of anything. Was Kumar an unwitting agent or a full-blown spy? Why was Ravi Kumar motivated to act on ISI’s behalf? What did he have to gain?
Reportedly, he had been contacting the ISI regularly over his phone, the internet and Facebook. However, it’s worth mentioning that all these channels are very easily penetrated and put under surveillance. Easy to use apps available on smartphones can be used to track messages sent and received via phone and internet. Governments in virtually every country can listen in on and monitor Facebook conversations. A spy is more likely to use secure means of communication. Handlers for any spy are likely to ensure such training.
Read more: Pakistan not interested in war with India
Press Trust of India also argues that it has also come to light that Pakistan-based agencies operate a large number of fake Facebook accounts. These accounts are in the name of beautiful young girls who actively try to befriend and seduce unemployed young people and retired/serving officials in the armed force. Subsequently, these fake online girls try to convince them into espionage activities.
Apparently, the ISI has enough manpower and resources to spare entire teams that are then devoted to maintaining fake profiles and befriending officers in the Indian Armed Forces on Facebook. After getting “honey-trapped”, these officers then decide to give up sensitive information and intelligence to maintain friendship with girls they meet on social media.
Ravi Kumar has been booked under the provisions of the Official Secrets Act and Section 120-B of the Indian Penal Code. The case is ongoing.