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A mole in an Indian mission can do great damage

April 27, 2010 16:26 IST

Madhuri Gupta, the indian diplomat arrested for spying in the Indian mission in Islamabad, may not have access to sensitive information, but she has access to the high commission and could have planted transmitting devices and tapped phones, writes B Raman.

Madhuri Gupta, second secretary in the press and information wing of the Indian High Commission in Islamabad, has been arrested on a charge of working for a foreign intelligence agency. She was called to New Delhi ostensibly on consultation duty in connection with the SAARC summit opening in Thimphu on April 29 and taken into custody after her arrival.

Apparently, she was not aware that she was under suspicion. If she was, she might not have come to New Delhi. Instead, she might have fled to some other country to escape arrest and interrogation as Major Rabinder Singh, an alleged mole of the Research & Analysis Wing, did in 2004.

It has been reported that Home Secretary G K Pillai, has confirmed her arrest. He has not given any other details. There are two possibilities -- she was either working for Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence or for the intelligence agency of a Western country through its intelligence officer working under the cover of a diplomat in Pakistan. I would not rule out the second possibility. Western intelligence agencies, particularly the Central Intelligence Agency, had in the past tried to recruit Indian diplomats posted in Indian missions abroad through blackmail or offer of money or offer of resident status in their country. Madhuri Gupta is reported to be an unmarried woman in her 40s.

The ISI normally uses money or blackmail for recruiting Indian diplomats posted in Pakistan. In the 1980s, when Rajiv Gandhi was the prime minister, the ISI had allegedly recruited a senior Indian Armed Forces attache by trapping him with the help of an attractive woman in Karachi and then blackmailing him with her help. He was called back to India under some pretext and removed from the armed forces. He was not prosecuted.

If the allegations against her are correct, Gupta might have been recruited by the agency which was using her either as an information agent or as a service agent. An information agent consciously supplies intelligence to which he or she has access. A service agent facilitates an intelligence operation of the recruiting agency in various ways.

As a Second Secretary in the Press and Information Wing, Gupta might not have had much access to sensitive intelligence. But, as she was working in the high commission, she would have had access to various offices in the Indian High Commission for performing furtive tasks such as planting bugs in the offices of the high commissioner and other diplomats, attaching transmitting devices for transmitting the telephone conversations of the high commissioner and others to the officer who recruited her etc.

If she had been working as a service agent, she would have caused immeasurable damage by enabling the agency that recruited her to collect electronically a lot of sensitive intelligence. It would never be possible to quantify and assess the extent of damage caused by her. She herself would not know since she would be unaware what kind of intelligence had been going on to her controlling officer through the gadgets which she had planted in the Indian High Commission on his direction.

In the 1970s, a British woman had been recruited by the Indian Embassy in Paris to work as a telephone operator. She had helped the MI-6 (the British intelligence service) in clandestinely recording the telephone conversations of all Indian diplomats posted in Paris. She had caused considerable damage before she was detected and sacked.

B Raman