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Friday, March 05, 2021

Arnab WhatsApp chats: Leaking military secrets is treason, will raise in House, says Congress

The Congress fielded former Defence Minister A K Antony, former Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, former External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid and Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad to take up the issue.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
Updated: January 21, 2021 1:17:28 am
Congress leaders Salman Khurshid, Ghulam Nabi Azad, A K Antony and Sushil Kumar Shinde during a press conference in Delhi on Wednesday. (Express photo by Anil Sharma)

Stepping up its attack on the government over purported WhatsApp conversations between Arnab Goswami and former CEO of Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) Partho Dasgupta, the Congress on Wednesday asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to come clean on what it called the leakage of secret information regarding military operation and said it will raise the issue in Parliament.

The Congress fielded former Defence Minister A K Antony, former Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, former External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid and Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad to take up the issue. The party demanded that an inquiry should be announced immediately.

“It is very clear that classified documents…that too classified documents concerning the national security and also concerning the most sensitive secret airstrikes are with people who are not expected to know it, who are not authorised to get these documents… the way the leaked chats between Arnab Goswami and Dasgupta… Three days before the Balakot airstrike, how one journalist came to know the details of the airstrike… I don’t know whether it affected or not… effectiveness of the operation can also be affected if in advance that details are known to others…” Antony told reporters.

Arguing that only “four or five people” in the government are expected to know these details besides “military people”, Antony said, “No military officer will leak such sensitive documents or details… so these documents were leaked to the media… not to the entire media but one journalist… among those four-five civilian people who are in the top position in the government… either minister or one or two senior officials who are concerned with national security… only they can leak these documents.” He said leaking official secrets about a military operation, especially an air strike, is “treason”.

Asked how the Congress was linking the chat to Balakot when the airstrike was not specifically mentioned, Antony said, “That is leaked information in the chats.”

Pointed out that there was no mention of operational details about the airstrike in the chats, Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera, who addressed the media along with the others, said, “If you are saying that something big is about to happen three days in advance how are you sharing it… who shared it with you… how are you sharing it with another unauthorised person… Is it not breach of the Official Secrets Act, is it not treason on the part of the person who parted with this information…”

Azad said the chats reveal attempts to “manipulate TRP”. “The most important part is the nexuses between the government and that particular individual.”

A statement issued by the Congress said it appears from the chats that “Goswami shared a very comfortable access with the Prime Minister and secured his intervention in overcoming business troubles and fixing rivals”. “Why was the Prime Minister allowing Goswami such friendly access to himself and his office?”

It said it is clear from the chats that Goswami took Dasgupta in 2019 to meet the then BJP president Amit Shah and was actively securing his intervention to “influence policy and controlling TRAI”.

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