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Indian authorities released a pigeon that had been detained for nearly a year over suspicions that the animal was spying for China, CBS News reported.
In May, guards at Mumbai’s international port seized a pigeon carrying a microchip, rings on its legs and Chinese characters written on its wings.
The city police initially suspected that the bird was used by China for spying, but investigations disproved that allegation.
Investigators told the New York Times that the avian was a racing bird from Taiwan, suggesting that the bird had arrived at the port on one of the vessels. They explained that the writing was not readable, suggesting that it had faded during the voyage.
But despite its innocence, the pigeon was kept at an animal hospital for months. The hospital and the animal rights group PETA India had contacted police to release the bird, saying it was healthy and taking up space.
Last week, police approved the bird’s release, a move that PETA celebrated as the end of a “wrongful imprisonment.”
This is not the first time India has detained birds on espionage charges.
In 2015, authorities caught a pigeon near the border with Pakistan after the bird was found to have a stamped message on its feathers written in Urdu– the main language spoken in Pakistan – and the seal of a Pakistani district.
The latest twist highlights the ongoing rivalry between China and India, with the two countries engaged in ongoing border disputes, World Politics Review noted.
China allegedly operates a pigeon military unit in its southwestern Yunnan province, according to reports from Radio Free Asia.