Team of Rivals

How the strange case of an alleged mole at the High Commission in Pakistan revealed a turf war between two of India’s own intelligence agencies

01 August 2012
Madhuri Gupta, whose duties at the High Commission in Islamabad involved monitoring the Urdu press, was charged with passing secrets to officials from Pakistani intelligence.

IN EARLY SPRING 2010, a few of the most powerful men in the Indian security establishment sat down for a special meeting at the Ministry of Home Affairs in New Delhi. The list of participants had been deliberately kept to a minimum to ensure there would be no leaks: the head of India’s external intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW), KC Verma; the Home Secretary, GK Pillai; and the director of the Intelligence Bureau (IB), Rajiv Mathur, along with one of his officers.

This gathering was not the routine morning meeting that P Chidambaram had instituted when he took over the home ministry in November 2008—an hour-long daily briefing on intelligence and internal security with the director of Intelligence Bureau (DIB), the national security adviser (NSA), the home secretary and the chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee. (The R&AW chief, who bears the cabinet title Secretary (Research) rarely attends meetings at the home ministry.) Chidambaram was not invited to this meeting, and there was only one item on the agenda: the Bureau had discovered a mole inside the Indian High Commission in Pakistan.

A few weeks earlier, the DIB had informed the home secretary that the Intelligence Bureau had placed an Indian diplomat in Islamabad under surveillance after suspicions had arisen that she was passing classified material to Pakistani intelligence. Nothing was recorded in writing, and the details of the operation had not been shared with anyone outside the IB.

Krishn Kaushik  was formerly a staff writer at The Caravan.

Keywords: RAW Krishn Kaushik IB Indian intelligence mole Madhuri Gupta spy
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