I spy …not!

As I was growing up, I had acquired a friend who had desperately wanted to be a spy. Brought up seeing James Bond films and reading John Le Carre books, he had believed he could do much for the country and serve the people well as an intelligence officer in one of the various agencies in India.

His older brother soon cut short his dreams – their father was in the Indian Police and I remember the high drama as the younger boy was banned from joining the Intelligence wing of the government with threats from both parents to commit suicide if he did. I also recall what the father had said, “If you join the Intelligence, we may never see you again. You will be forced to live under false identities, we will have no idea about your missions, we will not even know if yur are alive or dead. Instead if you really want to serve the country, I would suggest you join the Indian army. I don’t mind if you die fighting bravely for the country, But not in a cloak and dagger fashion!’’

He was unhappy for years and just out of spite he did not join the army, instead he got himself an MBA and went off to the US, as far away from his parents as possible – in a bid to punish all those who had stopped him from chasing his dreams. His parents were saddened but always said `not as much’ as they would have been if they hadn’t known what had happened to him, “Even if he now over comes back to India again and settles down there wth a foreign wife, we at least know where he is and that he is alive and kicking. The suspense of not knowing would have really killed us.’’

Over the years I understood why his parents had stopped him from beng a spy, After what has happened to Sarabjit Singh I wonder what motivates and drives a man to undertake such missions for the country at such high risk for life and family. I am sure it is not patriotism alone for many of our spies seem to come from circumstances where such missions and the rewards might be highly worth it, I, at least, have no doubt that Sarabjit was not just a poor inebriated farmer who crossed the border under a stupour and I agree with his sister Dalbir Kaur that the government should have been more careful after they hanged Ajmal Kasab and particularly Afzal Guru, For no less than former Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil had indicated some years ago that the Indian government could not hang Afzal if they wanted to keep Sarabjit alive, “They have threatened to execute him if we hang Afzal,’’ he had said and everybody missed the underlying significance of that revelation.

Ajmal Kasab was, of course, abandoned by Pakistan right from the start despite the fact that he had crossed over to complete a mission assigned to him by his own country. Afzal was an Indian citizen but it is now clear he was working for Pakistani elements, whether state or non-state actors, and Sarabjit’s brutal murder in a Lahore jail was par for the course, as Patil had warned all those years ago.

What or rather who made the difference to Indian policy on executions is probably President p Pranab Mukherjee and that is just as well. Without going into the merits of capital punishment, I believe India has not been a soft state vis-à-vis Pakistan or else we would still have been feeding both Ajmal and Afzal on Indian tax payers’ money, That we did do that for so many years before hanging them I see as an act of fattening the goat before the slaughter – no one can accuse us of not having followed the law of the land, human rights violations or kangaroo justice.

The same clearly cannot be said of Pakistan. We may lawfully hang dreaded criminals but we do not lynch, we do not bludgeon our prisioners to death and we do not behead enemy solders on the borders of our country. Unlike hotheads who are demanding an eye fpr an eyue, which can only render the whole world blind,

I would rather be an inheritor of Buddha’s non-violence than an aulad of Chengiz Khan who came upto Pakistan but could never cross the Indus river and overrun Asoka’s territory. I also believe in Albert Einstein who said non-violence might seem to be slow and not working at all but in fact there is nothing that works more surely and wirh as deadly effect as ahimsa. Just look at how President Mujherjee as the country’s foreign minister achieved with just words after 26/11 what we might not have with a war as many others were advocating at the time. He exposed and put Pakistan ion the mat, it is today widely recognised as a rogue state and the most dangerous place on earth in terms of terrorism and rogue elements.

My civilised Pakistani friends are embarrassed all the time at having to explain away the misdemeanours of their country, I never feel let diown by mine. I am proud to be an Indian even if I will never be able to spy for my country. That is for better men and women (I am told there ar plenty of Mata Haris even in the Indian Intelligence services).

Meanwhile, I surprised myself by waking up with a prayer for Sarabjit in the morning, May his soul rest in peace. And may no one else be as abandoned as he was by his own countrymen on the end!

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