Recently Indian spy agencies busted two different modules of ISI which were operating within India, one of them in Rajasthan and the other involved sting operation on officers of Pakistan high commission in Delhi. Whilst the former operation was called Desert chase, the latter was essentially a reverse osmosis. To the Indian sleuths, the latter was also reminiscent of an old operation by Military intelligence when ISI, Pakistan’s spy agency, funded Indian Military intelligence unit’s operation against itself. If you wish it can be called —operation comedy of sleuth errors.
The recent sting operation was carried out on two ISI officers, who were working in India under diplomatic immunity. It was carried out in the month of February, earlier this year, ostensibly an end-game operation where a bagman meets the contact, and offers him nuggets (cash or gifts) in exchange of information. Military intelligence unit Delhi, had meticulously worked out a plan after dotting all the i’s and crossing all the t’s, and ISI officers fell for the plan like moths to flame. The high octane sleuth game ended with ISI officers being declared persona non grata, and few days ago they were flown back to Pakistan in ignominy.
Operation comedy of sleuth errors had a similar plot, just that it was boisterously merry for the sleuths from India, who enjoyed duping ISI. But give the devil his due—ISI agents too have been able to carry out few operations on Indian soil. They’re an experienced bunch!!! Ergo, it’s no easy feat to fool them into shooting their own foot, but a counter intelligence team in Delhi managed to pull it off well.
The story goes—during one of the monsoon seasons in Delhi, almost 2 decades ago, an Indian Army soldier was walking back home, when he was offered lift by an ISI officer. This ISI officer was an agent provocateur, who entices the other person to carry out an illegal act. Those were days when Pakistan’s spy agency was eagerly sifting through information on Corps of Army Air Defence (AAD). On that rainy day, our agent provocateur from ISI believed he had hit a jackpot, when during the casual conservation the soldier revealed he was from AD corps. Cannot say if it was rain, or if it was an extreme confirmation bias, but ISI officer misunderstood AD corps–Army Dental corps as “Air defence corps”.
The soldier being a sharp one, informed Military intelligence unit about the Pakistani sleuth hawk who had offered him lift. Here began the Military intelligence’s dezinformatsiya (disinformation) campaign against the agent provocateur. The ISI officer was trapped by his Indian counterparts into believing the naïve soldier was indeed from “AD corps”, which in his lexicon was Air defence (AD). Soon the generous sleuth from Pakistani High commission was pumping money into the soldier’s account for feeding them bread crumbs of disinformation. The money received by the soldier was duly drawn by Military intelligence to facilitate it’s operation against ISI. So essentially ISI was funding an operation against itself. This is reminiscent of an aphorism—scoring point for your enemy.
This continued for some time till our ISI bagman (who offered money) was exposed by Military intelligence and Indian government declared him persona non grata, most serious case of censure which a country can apply to foreign diplomats. The credit for the success of operation went to the cheerful lot in Military intelligence, IB (intelligence bureau) and Special cell Delhi Police.
A mild error in judgement – AD corps—Army Dental and not Air defence—costed ISI it’s reputation in those days. To this day Jason Bournes and Jack Ryans of Indian military intelligence unit titter when the old stories surface during their sambuca and sangria meetings.
An article by Levina
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