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Friday, 7 November 2014

Pakistan lobbyist Robin Raphel under lens for alleged spying.......

WASHINGTON: Robin Raphel, a former State Department official and lobbyist who tormented New Delhi in the 1990s with provocative remarks on Jammu & Kashmir's accession to India and was seen as a brazenly pro-Pakistan partisan in Washington, is under FBI investigation for possible espionage.

The FBI has reportedly searched Raphel's Washington DC home and has also examined and sealed her office at the State Department, where she was till recently serving as an adviser on Pakistan-related issues. She was placed on administrative leave last month, and her contract with the State Department was allowed to expire this week, the Washington Post, which first reported the story, said.

Two US officials described the investigation as a counterintelligence matter, which typically involves allegations of spying on behalf of foreign governments, the paper added.

The State Department, her parent body till she retired in 2005, reacted discreetly to the development that churned up analysts who worked on the subcontinent, where Raphel was both a colorful and divisive personality. The department is aware of the matter and has been cooperating with law enforcement, a spokesperson said, confirming that Raphel is no longer employed by the State Department.

Raphel, who is now 67, was from all accounts a piece of work who carried US-India ties to its nadir with her pathological dislike for India which she did little to conceal. She was serving as a political counselor in New Delhi after an early stint as a CIA analyst when she was pitchforked into the job of Assistant Secretary of State in Washington DC in the newly created "South Asia" bureau by President Clinton, with whom she was reported to be friends going back to their Oxford days.

The "South Asia" coinage itself was received skeptically by New Delhi, which saw it as an effort to dilute the cachet that "Indian subcontinent" had.

Raphel soon proceeded to create havoc as the pointperson for "South Asia," raising the hackles of the Narasimha Rao government in New Delhi with incendiary pronouncements on the Kashmir issue, particularly at a time New Delhi was already dealing with a tense situation in the state arising from the so-called Hazratbal episode. In one background briefing she suggested that Washington did not recognize the instrument of accession that made Kashmir a part of India and effectively questioned the validity of the India Independence Act.

She was also dismissive of the Shimla Agreement saying it was ineffective and outdated. Each of this positions validated Pakistan's viewpoint.

The remarks outraged New Delhi, but it got worse when she was seen as brazenly working to protect Pakistan from being declared a state sponsor of terrorism following the terrorist attack on Mumbai in 1993 — in the face of evidence provided by India, including detonators used in the serial blasts that mysteriously disappeared when they were sent to Washington for forensic evaluation.

The late Indian spymaster Bahukutumbi Raman referred in his memoirs to this "ack-thoo" moment in US-India relations, saying, "I felt like vomiting and spitting at the State Department officials. I might have done so had they been there." The principal subject of his ire was Raphel, who had enraged him by threatening to put both Pakistan and India on the same terrorism list.



Strobe Talbott (L) and Robin Raphel (R) in India in April 1994. (Getty Images)

"The State Department officer, who had previously served in the US embassy in New Delhi, asked the ambassador to tell New Delhi that if the R&AW did not stop what the State Department described as its covert actions in Pakistan, the US might be constrained to act against Pakistan and India for indulging in acts of terrorism against each other," Raman wrote in a thinly-disguised reference to Raphel and her machinations. According to the message, Rahel had said: ''You have been asking us for many years to declare Pakistan as a state-sponsor of terrorism. Yes, we will do so. But we will simultaneously act against India too if it did not stop meddling in Pakistan."

Raman thought Raphel was being disingenuous in equating India with Pakistan, which was effectively carrying out a war inside India using disaffected Indians (such as Dawood Ibrahim) and jihadis, and moreover had tried to undermine India by sponsoring the Khalistani separatism in Punjab.

He says took the matter to Narasimha Rao, who after determining that Indian intelligence was not sponsoring any terrorist violence in Pakistan (aside from keeping political contacts with Pakistan leaders who were not inimical to India), took a strong stand against Raphel and her incendiary positions.

In one of the more trenchant statements, Rao's home minister S.B.Chavan virtually accused Washington of turning a blind eye to terrorism against India, if not actively supporting it. ''We have no evidence,'' Chavan told journalists, ''but there is no doubt that the United States is helping Pakistan in aiding and abetting terrorist and anti-social activities in India.''

The mild-manner Rao himself took up the matter with visiting US senators Thad Cochran, Larry Pressler and Hank Brown, telling them that Raphel's statements did not help the promotion of Indo-US relations.

After retiring from the State Department and before she returned to Foggy Bottom as a consultant on Pakistan, Raphel became a lobbyist for Pakistan, working on the account for Cassidy and Associates, which won a $ 1.2 million contract to promote the country as an "important strategic partner of the US." She told the Hill newspaper at that time that "there is less than perfect understanding of Pakistan here," and her job will be to make sure ''all relevant parties have the facts."

The reason for Raphel's animosity towards India has never been fully explained or understood. Some put it to her New Delhi posting in the early 1990s when she reportedly suffered a traumatic accident that needed hospitalization which left her unhappy. Others attributed it to her fondness for Pakistan from earlier links (her former husband Arnie Raphel was the US ambassador there when he died in the air crash that also killed Gen Zia-ul Haq).

Whatever the case, her toxicity towards India was widely recognized and scorned in New Delhi.

Raphel's "notoriety and unpopularity in India dates back to 1992/3 when she made very egregious and offensive comments on the status of Kashmir," noted a former Indian diplomat who served in Washington DC when the American was running amok. ''Her pro-Pak bias was clear and in-your-face.''