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India denies any govt links to Ex-naval officer in Balochistan

In a development that is likely to revive Islamabad’s claims that New Delhi was stoking trouble in its border province of Balochistan, India today said the individual held by Pakistan security agencies in Balochistan has no links with the Government of India since his premature retirement from Indian Navy.
The response by India’s Ministry of External Affairs came after Pakistan Foreign Secretary summoned India’s High Commissioner to Islamabad Gautam Bambawale to lodge his country’s protest over “subversive activities” of an alleged Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) officer.

“The Indian High Commissioner was summoned by the Foreign Secretary today and through a demarche conveyed our protest and deep concern on the illegal entry into Pakistan by a RAW officer and his involvement in subversive activities in Balochistan and Karachi,” the Pakistan Foreign Office said in a statement.

Balochistan Home Minister Mir Sarfaraz Bugti on Friday identified the “official” as Kulbhushan Yadav, who he said was a commander-ranking officer in the Indian Navy and was working for Research and Analysis Wing (RAW). He said the man was contact with Baloch separatists and terrorists fuelling sectarian violence in Balochistan. Agency reports quoted unnamed sources to claim that the man was arrested from Chaman area of Balochistan, which is close to the Afghanistan border.

In New Delhi, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said: “The said individual has no link with Government since his premature retirement from Indian Navy. We have sought consular access to him. India has no interest in interfering in internal matters of any country and firmly believes that a stable and peaceful Pakistan is in the interest of all in the region.”

Pakistan had accused India of stoking violence in Balochistan and Karachi in the past. But it has never been able to furnish any evidence to support his claims.

In July 2009, a joint statement was signed between India’s then PM Manmohan Singh and Pakistan’s Yousaf Raza Gilani after their talks on the sidelines of Sharm-el-Sheikh in Egypt. Singh was criticized by the Opposition as the statement had included that during their talks Gilani “mentioned” that “Pakistan has some information on threats in Balochistan and other areas”.

In that statement, Singh said that “India was ready to discuss all issues with Pakistan, including all outstanding issues”.

In a related development, India today issued visas to five members of a Pakistani Joint Investigation Team (JIT) who will travel to the country on Sunday to carry forward the probe into the Pathankot Airbase attack in early January, blamed on Pakistan based Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) militants. The members of the JIT are scheduled to leave for India on March 27.

The five-member probe team comprises senior officials from both the military intelligence as well as civil administration and is headed by the Chief of Punjab Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) Additional Inspector General of Police Muhammad Tahir Rai.

Other members include Lahore Deputy Director General Intelligence Bureau Mohammad Azim Arshad, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Lt Col Tanvir Ahmed, Military Intelligence Lt Col Irfan Mirza and Gujjaranwala CTD Investigating Officer Shahid Tanveer. This will be the first time that Pakistani intelligence and police officials are travelling to India to investigate a terror attack.

India had agreed to allow the Pakistani JIT to visit the Pathankot Air Base after External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj met with her Pakistani counterpart Sartaj Aziz in Kathmandu on the sidelines of SAARC Ministerial meeting on March 17.

The attack led to the postponement of a scheduled meeting between Foreign Secretaries of Pakistan and India in January in Islamabad.

On February 18, Pakistan had lodged an FIR in connection with the Pathankot terror attack without naming JeM chief Masood Azhar who India has accused of having masterminded the strike.

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