Frontline does a Quint and scores big points with Pakistan, cooks up another ‘spy story’ of Jadhav

Frontline, a publication that belongs to ‘The Hindu’ group has peddled yet another Jadhav ‘spy story’ in its publication. By attributing the contents of the story to former RAW officials, the journalist Praveen Swami has aided the Pakistani narrative on Kulbhushan Jadhav’s alleged espionage activities. A similar attempt was made by The Quint. We had debunked their shoddy journalism earlier.

Praveen Swami, a Pakistani sympathiser?

When the Indian navy had destroyed a boat off West coast in Arabian sea, Praveen Swami had written an article claiming that the destruction of the terror boat was a drama. He said that the people in the suspicious boat could have been ‘small time smugglers.’ He writes :

Less than 48 hours after the Coast Guard destroyed a boat it suspected was ferrying explosives and terrorists from Pakistan into Indian waters, new evidence has begun to emerge that those on board might have been small-time liquor and diesel smugglers, ferrying bootleg cargo from the port of Gwadar to other fishing boats which were to have carried it into Karachi’s Keti Bandar harbour.

There is also a suggestion of use of disproportionate force since the fishing boat did not have an engine capable of outrunning Indian interceptors.

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The journalist later appeared on a Pakistani Channel called UNewsTV and bashed the Indian Navy officer for destroying the boat. He also entertained the Pakistani journalists comment that the whole act was part of Modi government’s marketing propaganda. Swami had leaked a video of a Navy officer’s speech to claim that the act of destroying a Pakistani vessel was unnecessary action. The leaked video was also played on the Pakistani channel. Clearly, this journalist seems to love undermining his own country to win some sort of browny points from folks across the border.

‘India’s secret war’ an article with Pakistani narrative, attributed to dubious ‘sources’

The article written by Praveen Swami in Frontline cooks up a fresh story about Kulbhushan Jadhav’s activities in Balochistan. Invents past ‘RAW officials’ as sources and questions the rationale of espionage itself. He writes (emphasis added):

Ever since 2013, India has secretly built up a covert action programme against Pakistan, seeking to retaliate against jehadists and deter their sponsors in the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate. Led by National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, and now by Research and Analysis Wing’s (RAW) Anil Dhasmana, the programme has registered unprecedented success, hitting hard against organisations such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Jaish-e-Muhammad. But the story of the man on death row illustrates that this secret war is not risk-free. Lapses in tradecraft and judgment, inevitable parts of any human enterprise, can inflict harm far greater than the good they seek to secure.

Swami seems to be saying that India should not take any risk. It should allow its citizens to die in terrorist attacks like they did under UPA. We should just ‘live with’ terror as per Swami. Everyone knows that risk is an inherent part of life and nations/individuals must take risks for the right cause. Therefore there can’t be any second thoughts on lowering India’s guard.

Praveen Swami invents a former RAW official to suggest a hypothetical clash of interests between RAW and IB. He says that he was victim of IB’s poor judgement and ambition. He writes (emphasis added) :

“The Navy was extremely worried about the possible consequences of the tasks being assigned to Jadhav by the Intelligence Bureau,” said one officer. “However, we were basically told that since he was there, that was how it needed to be.” Former RAW officials claimed that the push to draw Jadhav into front-line intelligence work was driven by the I.B.’s ambitions to have an independent overseas role. RAW’s own intelligence capacities in the region, they argued, were more than adequate to address emerging threats.

If this supposed former RAW official is so courageous, he must come out of is anonymity and tell the world about the flaws. Why is he hiding? The insinuations of Jadhav’s past through such dubious sources are worrisome because it cannot be verified. These dubious stories also damage the case of Jadhav who is stuck in a Pakistani jail with death hanging over his head.

Praveen Swami also suggests that India’s ‘alleged’ assistance to terror in Balochistan could be ‘equated’ to 26/11. This is reminiscent of the disastrous  Sharm-el-Shaik declaration under the Manmohan Singh government. Praveen Swami’s journalism is toeing the line of UPA’s Pakistan policy and is opposed to NDA’s handling of security issues. One wonders if he is actually doing UPA’s bidding through his journalism. He writes (emphasis added)

This is an effort to equate acts like 26/11 with Indian covert action,” said a former intelligence officer. “The only reason it has traction, though, is because of the opacity around Jadhav’s employment status. If he is indeed a serving naval officer, that means there are some serious problems with the infrastructure for our covert action programme, which need addressing.”

Praveen Swami indirectly asks India to admit to Jadhav’s alleged spying activities and negotiate his release. Not surprisingly, Pakistani media has picked up story to support Pakistan military’s narrative. He also talks about ‘rumours’ of an ISI agent caught by India and tacitly asks for his release in exchange for Jadhav. Swami has ended up peddling the exact same narrative that Pakistan wants. Swami writes (emphasis added) :

Knowledge of the truth about the Jadhav case, as it emerges, will do little to alter his fate. In a May 18 judgment asking Pakistan not to proceed with Jadhav’s execution, the International Court of Justice recorded that “the Vienna Convention does not contain express provisions excluding from its scope persons suspected of espionage or terrorism”.

Put simply, Jadhav is entitled under Indian law to the assistance of the Indian government—including legal assistance—irrespective of the nature of his activities in Iran or Pakistan. [..]

In both New Delhi and Islamabad, there are rumours the two capitals are working on just such a deal—possibly involving former ISI officer Lieutenant Colonel Mohammad Zahir Habib, alleged to have been kidnapped by India—or a wider deal, which could see the release of multiple espionage convicts.

Not surprisingly, Pakistani media is picking on his article to further spread Pakistan military’s story.

A few days ago, there was a buzz on Social Media that Praveen Swami had left The Indian Express because he wasn’t allowed to carry some story that he wanted to carry. After this story appeared in The Frontline, journalist J Gopikrishnan also pointed out that it was this story because of which Swami perhaps quit the Indian Express.

Should media publish information gathered from ‘anonymous former officials’ which undermine Kulbhushan Jadhav’s case at ICJ and international forum? Should ‘The Hindu’ group entertain this sort of rumour based journalism which asks for a ‘hypothetical’ ISI spy in India’s custody? The government must note this trend in media and enact a tough law against journalists who undermine national interest and wittingly or unwittingly, aid foreign enemies from Indian soil.


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