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Has the ISI resorted to recruiting Indians as spies?

By Vicky Nanjappa
June 29, 2011 15:24 IST
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It seems like there is a virtual war being fought on our borders. Despite curbs and beefed up security along the borders, the Inter-Services Intelligence of Pakistan continues to gather information on India.

Sources in the Intelligence Bureau say that they have launched a major operation against collection of such information. It has come to light that those Indians who cross over into Pakistan legally are being lured into becoming spies and work for Pakistan agencies.

Many Indians do cross over into Pakistan in order to meet their relatives or for some other work. A source said that there are at least 1,000 cases in a year, and more often than not, the ISI manages to lure a considerable number of them into becoming spies for them.

Every person crossing into Pakistan has to go through certain routine checks at a police station on the border. There are 12 police stations on the India-Pakistan border, and have officials from the ISI, who conduct the 'routine' questioning, said a source.

The source added that after the officials conduct a thorough background check and grant permission to enter the country, they make the 'offer'.

The IB says that the ISI deals with each person differently.

"In most of the cases that we have dealt with, the offers made are money, women or drugs. In some cases, they even offer diplomatic immunity. While the ISI does live up to most of these promises, diplomatic immunity is never granted," said the source.

Once these persons bite the bait, their job of spying commences once they return to India. The information that they are supposed to supply is normally general in nature, but on some occasions, it is specific.

The source said that most spy agencies do not rely on the internet for information, and prefer having first hand information.

The IB says that in the cases that they have come across so far, the information has been regarding government policy, information relating to certain places or statements by politicians. However some cases are serious where the ISI has asked for specific details of important places along with pictures and other logistics.

The source claims that the ISI has managed to place spies from across the country in India. These persons go out of the country on a valid visa but come back as spies for the ISI.

"The ISI is looking for a very strong presence of their spies, who are legitimate Indian citizens, and this is just one of the steps forward in setting up the concept of homegrown jihad, which they have tried in the past with the Students Islamic Movement of India or the Indian Mujahideen," said the source.

The most recent case was that of suspected Pakistani spy Ismail Khan from Karanpur in Rajasthan. His interrogation managed to give Indian agencies a lot of information regarding this modus operandi.

An IB official who questioned Khan said that he had a lot of revealing information which helped them keep a close tab on such operations.

Khan told the IB that there are several police stations known as 'Questioning Centres' which the Indians are taken to before they can actually go about their work.

Khan had gone to Pakistan to meet with his relatives. At one of these centres, the relatives were brought in to convince Khan to take up this assignment. However, after he refused to do so, he was taken to a chamber where an ISI official after one round of trying to convincing him, resorted to threat tactics.

Khan claimed to have had not much of a choice.

"The question of agreeing and then returning to India and not following orders does not arise, since they have our relatives under their control," Khan told one of his IB interrogators.

Upon convincing such persons the ISI imparts 'training' on how information is supposed to be collected and sent. Then the newly inducted' spies' are asked to buy a computer through which the information will need to be sent out.

In addition to this they are also given SIM cards and mobile phones to stay in touch. A large sum of money is also promised a reward, said an IB source.

This may look like a minor operation. However, the ISI is aiming to achieve a major goal and that it is to have as many spies in India. Not only will they be used for day-to-day operations, but they could be used during a major operation as well.

"This saves the ISI the trouble of personally sending someone in from Pakistan to carry out a recee when they can easily access information from existing persons," said the source.

The IB claims that there could be as many as 5,000 such persons across the country working for the ISI.

"This is an exercise that we would need to conduct along with the support of various other agencies. We are going through records of persons who have visited Pakistan, and will be keeping tabs on such persons," the source revealed.
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Vicky Nanjappa