Robin Raphel, a former US state department official and lobbyist who went out of her way to provoke India in the 1990s with remarks on Jammu & Kashmir's accession to the country with a clear pro-Pakistan bias, is under FBI investigation for possible espionage.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation 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 on the matter, said.
Two US officials described the investigation as a counterintelligence issue, which typically involves allegations of spying on behalf of foreign governments, the paper added.
The state department reacted discreetly to the development that churned up analysts who work 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, now 67, 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 by President Clinton in the newly created ''South Asia" bureau. She was purportedly friends with the then president 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, and Raphel's pronouncements soon proved India's fears right.
Raphel proceeded to create havoc as the point person for ''South Asia,'' raising the hackles of the Narasimha Rao government in New Delhi with incendiary pronouncements on the Kashmir issue, at a time New Delhi was already dealing with a tense situation in the state arising from the so-called Hazratbal episode and terrorist infiltration from Pakistan.
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 these 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.