Editorial : Spying farce - Sunday 3rd April 2011

PAKISTAN and India seem to have a built-in mechanism for sabotaging peace moves. This uncanny but recurrent phenomenon sows doubts in the mind of the international community about our public avowals of peace and arouses derision for South Asian governments` diplomatic gaucheness, besides disappointing people on both sides. Prime Ministers Yousuf Raza Gilani and Manmohan Singh met at Mohali on Wednesday, their first meeting since Thimphu last year. Both displayed cautious optimism about the future relationship and seemed sincere in pushing the peace process forward. A day earlier — perhaps to create the right atmosphere for the two prime ministers to meet, the Pakistan and Indian home secretaries clinched a deal that among other things decided to establish a hotline to exchange real-time data on terrorism. Yet on the very day of the Mohali semi-final and what was billed as the third round of cricket diplomacy, Indian security agencies arrested a Pakistan high commission official to throw a spanner in the works. A day later, their Pakistani counterparts obliged with a tit-for-tat arrest that made Mohali appear a cruel joke.
The underworld of espionage and counter-espionage has its own rules of the game. Intelligence agencies across the world know more about things at home and abroad than their elected chiefs. Whether it is Pakistan`s ISI or India`s RAW, not to mention Raymond Davis`s ubiquitous agency, spying networks throughout the world exercise a certain degree of freedom of action which sometimes embarrasses their governments. Surely, those who arrested the Pakistan High Commission official must have kept him under surveillance for a long time and known all along what his presumed undiplomatic activities were. That they didn`t wait for the Mohali meeting to be over and arrested him that very day would make all well-wishers of peace wonder whether this was a deliberate act aimed at derailing a renewed peace process that looked like moving forward.
The Pakistan agencies too could have exercised discretion. Instead, by responding immediately to what by any standards was a provocative act at the Chandigarh airport they deprived their own government of any chance of occupying the moral high ground. Diplomats on both sides then got to work on what was a damage-control exercise; the Indian HC staff member was released after a phone call from New Delhi but the damage had been done. The invisible hands on both sides will now be hard put to explain to their governments and their own people what they achieved by enacting a spying farce that failed to evoke laughter. Let`s hope the episode proves no more than a minor setback in the peace journey.

Source : http://www.dawn.com/2011/04/03/spying-farce.html

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