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Pigeon From Pakistan Captured In India. Is It A Spy?


And the long-running hostility between India and Pakistan is not usually a laughing matter. Both possess nuclear weapons. They've fought three wars. Yet, for the last few days, there have been smiles on both sides of the border. NPR's Philip Reeves reports.

PHILIP REEVES, BYLINE: A couple of days ago, a report appeared in the Times of India about a small, white pigeon. The newspaper said the pigeon was captured by a boy in an Indian village close to the border with Pakistan. Attached to the bird was a message including a Pakistani phone number and some words in Urdu, Pakistan's national language. The boy called in the cops, who had the pigeon X-rayed. Although they found nothing sinister, the newspaper said the police recorded an entry in their blotter describing the pigeon as a suspected spy. There's been much merriment in cyberspace ever since. Wince-making puns are flying around about India being in a flutter, about nests of spies. Pakistanis have poured scorn on their rivals with a chorus of tweets, including pictures of pigeons dressed as secret agents. My favorite is the James Bond pigeon, complete with a pistol and dinner jacket. Some Pakistani computer gamers have rushed out an app in which you shoot down feathered spies. Yet, there's nothing outlandish about pigeons being used for espionage. Years ago, the CIA developed a tiny camera that can be strapped to a pigeon's breast and used for taking low-altitude snaps over enemy territory. Pigeons also have a very long military record as messengers. British intelligence was so worried about the Nazis using courier pigeons that they kept a bunch of peregrine falcons to intercept them. My guess is that the little white pigeon now reportedly in Indian custody belongs to one of Pakistan's multitude of pigeon fanciers. Keeping pigeons for racing's very popular here and dates back to the Mughal Empire. People often attach telephone numbers to their prized birds in case these get lost. We'll probably never know for sure; pigeons never confess. Philip Reeves, NPR News, Islamabad Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Philip Reeves is an award-winning international correspondent covering South America. Previously, he served as NPR's correspondent covering Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India.