Is Indian Intelligence Monkeying With Pakistan?

December 15, 2011  

As diplomacy begins to thaw between India and Pakistan a wandering primate who strayed across a disputed border region into Pakistan has sparked a media firestorm.

The monkey, who remains unnamed, was found by members of a paramilitary ranger unit in Pakistan’s desert region of Rahim Yar Khan on November 19. They packed him off to the British-era Bahawalpur Zoo in Pakistan’s Punjab province.

“India has a huge population of monkeys and often when they are hungry they head towards Pakistan,” Zoo curator Irfan Farooqi told AFP.

“We were given him by the Rangers. They found him strolling near their post,” Farooqi added.

For zoo officials the matter is prosaic and perhaps even inane. But Pakistan’s press latched onto the story with a furor, with assertions the monkey is a trained Indian intelligence officer

As ludicrous as such wildly paranoiac libels often sound, they are not uncommon when mistrust runs high between entrenched enemies.

For instance, this year alone Israel has been accused of fielding Mossad attack sharks near Sinai, IAF surveillance vultures in Saudi Arabia, and genetically engineered disease-resistant super-mice trained to avoid Jewish homes in Jerusalem, but attack its Arab enemies.

But Farooqi dismissed the odd media speculation, saying, “We don’t suspect the monkey has been deliberately sent to Pakistan. I don’t think it is a trained spy. It is a common monkey.”

The story does not end there, however. Due to the media fireworks over Double-0 Monkey an animal rights group in India took note and reportedly wrote to Pakistan’s ambassador in New Dehli demanding the release of the expatriate primate.

But Farooqi said the zoo had received no request, adding he doubted the Indian government was interested in repatriating the wayward primate.

“Monkeys are usually naughty and they can harm the civilian population,” Farooqi said. “We got (another) one (from India) a few months ago and no one asked for its repatriation.”

India and Pakistan resumed a tentative peace process this year, following a three-year hiatus over the 2008 attacks in Mumbai, blamed on Islamabad. The two countries have fought three wars since independence in 1948 and relations remain mired in distrust.

Asghar Gilani, a Pakistani wildlife department official said the monkey’s fate was sealed.

“Such incidents have happened in the past also but no demand for their return had been made,” Gilani said, adding he was surprised by the media attention the alleged Indian spy has garnered.

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