ISLAMABAD: In information leaked to the media, the identity of eight Indian officers and staffers believed to be undercover operatives and posted at the country’s high commission was made public on Wednesday.
The alleged Indian intelligence personnel, whose cover was blown in the media leak, are Rajesh Kumar Agnihotri (posted as commercial counsellor); Balbir Singh (posted as first secretary, press and culture); Anurag Singh (working as first secretary, commercial), Amardeep Singh Bhatti (visa attache); Dharmedra, Vijay Kumar Verma and Madhavan Nanda Kumar (visa assistants); and Jayabalan Senthil (assistant, personnel welfare office). The media leak claimed that the officials were working either for RAW or for the Indian Intelligence Bureau.
No Foreign Office official was available to confirm the media leak — which began with the electronic media — or give its details.
Posting of undercover officers is a routine practice in inter-state relations.
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The revealed Indian agents, according to the information leaked to the media, were, however, found to be involved in subversive activities, including attempts to disrupt the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and create fear and chaos in the country. They are also alleged to be building a network of informants within Pakistan and fabricating evidence for tarnishing the country’s image abroad.
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It is expected that these agents would be declared persona non-grata by Pakistani authorities in the coming days or India would withdraw them.
Responding to media queries in New Delhi, a spokesman for the Indian external affairs ministry, Vikas Swarup, declined to comment on the future of the agents whose identities had been exposed.
The leak that took the confrontation between the two countries to a new peak came after Pakistan was forced to pull out six of its officers and staff posted at the high commission in New Delhi because of Indian allegations that four diplomats were working for Pakistani intelligence services.
The withdrawn officers and staffers reached Lahore on Wednesday.
The leak about Indian undercover agents is one of the most significant exposé relating to undercover agents since the US Central Intelligence Agency was forced to pull out its station chief Jonathan Banks in December 2010 after his identity was revealed in a law suit by victims of drone attacks.
In 2010, an Indian undercover set-up was also partially revealed after India arrested one of its own high commission officers for working for the ISI.
Never before has the cover of such a large number of agents been blown in one instance.
Security agencies earlier this year captured a serving RAW officer, Kulbushan Jadhav, in Balochistan, which is seen as the most important intelligence catch so far.
The blowing of cover of Indian agents may serve as a temporary intelligence setback for Delhi.
India last week sparked the latest controversy in its strained ties with Pakistan when it detained one of the Pakistani mission’s staffers, Mehmood Akhtar, and coerced him to name four of the diplomats as spies. The recorded statement of Mr Akhtar, who was later dismissed from India, was played on Indian media, compromising the security of Pakistani personnel at the Delhi mission.
Mr Akhtar insists that he was forced into identifying the diplomats as intelligence agents.
The relationship between the two countries has been worsening since the start of the ongoing uprising in India-held Kashmir, which Delhi blames on Pakistan.
The developments suggest that the bilateral ties are set to deteriorate further.