The tragedy of our subcontinent is not that we sell ourselves, but that we sell ourselves cheaply.
The fact is that Madhuri Gupta sold out her country, and no matter what the price was, she sold out cheap.
Spying is an ancient craft, practiced even between states that are supposedly friendly. For ‘arch enemies', as India and Pakistan are often described, it’s a fact of life. The fact that it can be done cheaply is a bonus.
“First woman diplomat to be held for spying,” screamed our anchors and headlines as the news broke and then overshadowed the IPL slugfest which had been dominating that slot till then.
But the flurry of reports, all tagged ‘Exclusive!’, must have made the Pakistanis wonder whether they really needed spies after all.
Apart from identifying and naming a senior diplomat posted at the High Commission in Islamabad as a “RAW station head”, the reports randomly speculated on the kind of things she could have done to compromise Indian security.
Though the revelations were attributed to unnamed government officials, some reports narrowed it down to sources in the home ministry.
So, perhaps in the hope of scoring brownie points over their colleagues in the Ministry of External Affairs, or, scary thought, perhaps even without being aware of the possible repercussions, some clowns in the Home Ministry have been briefing journalists, and thus Pakistan, about every little song that our arrested spy is singing. How she had identified someone called 'Rana' as her handler in Pakistan, how she would pass on documents and data to him and other contacts, the works.
And let us not forget that by blowing his cover, they jeopardised the life and career of the RAW officer in Islamabad.
Obviously, it never occurred to these 'sources' that the first thing one does in such cases is to stay quiet, and watch the other party sweat. If we had just done that, instead of turning it into a media circus, Pakistan would have been left wondering about the extent of information that India had extracted from her.
In an article aptly titled The She-mole’s case: Making an ass of ourselves, former senior RAW official and strategic analyst B Raman points out:
"After the serial blasts in Mumbai in March 1993, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of the US secretly sent a team of its explosive experts to Mumbai to help the investigators of the Mumbai Police. They were put up in a Mumbai hotel under a non-official cover. The leader of the team was surprised to receive a phone call from a journalist of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) then posted in New Delhi, who was aware of their FBI identity. Enquiries revealed that a senior officer of the Mumbai Police had told the journalist about their FBI identity and revealed to him the name of the hotel where they were staying. There was a strong protest from the FBI over the indiscretion of the Mumbai Police officer.
So, not only do we sell ourselves, we also sell others cheap.
Perhaps expecting our bureaucrats to think before they exploit an opportunity to cut their colleagues to size is naive.