Islamabad: Pakistan made an official protest to India on Friday after detaining a man it says is an Indian spy who illegally entered the country and was captured on Thursday in the violence-plagued province of Balochistan.
India's foreign ministry spokesman confirmed that Pakistan's foreign secretary had taken up the matter with the Indian High Commissioner in Islamabad but denied the man is a spy.
"The said individual has no link with the Government since his premature retirement from the Indian Navy," the spokesman said in a statement. "We have sought consular access to him."
According to The Indian Express, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs said that the Indian national arrested in Balochistan was a former Navy official, however the MEA denied any links to the government.
The paper also reports that the alleged spy, Kulbhushan Jadhav was being accused of having illegally entered the country and that he was indulging in "subversive" activities. The Times of India report claims that "the picture of his passport on news sites have his names as Hussein Mubarak Patel and a valid Iranian visa." According to Livemint, Vikas Swarup, MEA spokesperson said, “The said individual has no link with the government since his premature retirement from Indian Navy. We have sought consular access to him. India has no interest in interfering in internal matters of any country and firmly believes that a stable and peaceful Pakistan is in the interest of all in the region."
While such allegations by Pakistan have been on an increase in the last couple of years, this is the first instance of New Delhi acknowledging the arrest across the border of an individual associated with its armed forces.
Tensions are already high between the nuclear-armed nations after India blamed Pakistan-based militants for a January attack on an Indian air base, in which seven military personnel were killed.
"(Pakistan) conveyed our protest and deep concern on the illegal entry into Pakistan by an RAW officer and his involvement in subversive activities in Balochistan and Karachi," Pakistan's foreign ministry said in a statement on Friday, referring to a message conveyed to India's ambassador.
RAW is Research and Analysis Wing, the country's main external intelligence agency.
Pakistan believes that India is supporting separatists in the resource-rich Balochistan province, as well as militants fighting the state from the lawless tribal areas. It also sees India as fuelling strife in the volatile city of Karachi.
India denies any such interference and has itself accused Pakistan of backing militants fighting Indian security forces in its part of the divided Kashmir region, of helping militants to launch attacks elsewhere in India and backing the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Pakistan say it only offers diplomatic support to the Muslim people of Kashmir living under what it says is heavy-handed Indian rule. It denies backing militant attacks in India.
A Pakistani military official in Balochistan told Reuters the alleged RAW spy was an Indian navy officer. Another Pakistani official gave the same information.
Both declined to be identified because they were not authorised to give details of the incident to the media.
One of the officials said the man had been moved to Islamabad for interrogation.
The neighbouring countries have fought three wars since 1947, two of them over Kashmir, which they both claim in full but rule in part.
Balochistan's provincial interior minister, Mir Sarfaraz Bugti, told reporters that the arrest "proved Indian involvement" in his province.
Last year Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said that the RAW was determined on annihilating Pakistan.
"RAW has been formed to undo Pakistan and to wipe Pakistan off the map," Asif said in a television interview.
Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has sought to improve ties with India since his election in 2013, but his efforts are widely considered to have caused friction with the army, which sees relations with India as its domain.
Last December Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a surprise stopover in Pakistan to meet Sharif, the first visit by an Indian premier in more than a decade, raising hopes that stop-start negotiations might finally make progress after decades of hostility.
With inputs from Reuters