May 3, 2010 3:12:43 am
The tale of a disgruntled Ministry of External Affairs official turning into a spy for Pakistani intelligence agencies is gradually unravelling with investigators saying Madhuri Gupta allegedly had a relationship of personal affection with Jamshed,an aide of her principal handler,Mubashar Raja Rana.
More importantly,the three had set up a common email id sultanarao@ gmail.com to access information stored as drafts. Some emails were also exchanged,and all this is now a subject of investigation.
Investigators say Gupta was constantly egged on by her handlers,who used her disenchantment with the Indian officialdom to good effect. Though she has denied taking money for the alleged dealings,her bank accounts reportedly show a healthy cash balance and this is being investigated.
According to sources,the spying story began when Gupta,a 1983-batch IFS-B officer,got acquainted with a journalist of a reputed media group in Pakistan. Known for his strong anti-India views,the scribe had often been denied an Indian visa and approached Gupta to help him. She was apparently sympathetic towards his case but explained to him that there was little she could do.
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This journalist is learnt to have later introduced her to Rana,said to be a Deputy Director in Pakistans Intelligence Bureau. This was sometime in 2008,a little over six months after she had moved to Islamabad mission as attaché later promoted to Second Secretary to translate Urdu press clippings. Rana then introduced her to his assistant and aide,the 31-year-old Jamshed.
The trio seemed to have hit it off well and,officials say,would meet occasionally at a safe house House No. 24,Sector H-8,Islamabad besides keeping in touch through the Net. Jamshed allegedly developed a close personal relationship with Gupta,and became a source of emotional comfort.
According to investigators,this turned out to be a targeted spy trap and Gupta a perfect candidate. She had been disgruntled throughout her career,even though she did get as many as five foreign postings,including a deputation as civil liaison officer to the UN mission in Croatia.
Her litany of complaints against her ministry and the IFS officialdom,sources said,is endless. She is believed to have complained about how she was refused a few extra days and some additional help to sell off her car before moving out of Baghdad on transfer while others were given permission. Her uneasy relationship with her superiors also ensured that her application for study leave to do a Ph.D in JNU was turned down.
Gupta,nonetheless,did complete a Ph.D on Islam and Sufism from JNU in the mid-1990s despite being transferred to different places during that time. Her first foreign posting was Kuala Lumpur,then Liberia,Baghdad,Croatia,and finally Islamabad in 2007. She was at the Indian Council of World Affairs before being shifted to Pakistan.
While Jamshed won her affection,Rana was apparently effusive in praise of her inputs. Even though she never managed to get any significant information,sources said,Rana would praise her for her well-written reports,say sources. He would tell her that the reports were being sent straight to Pakistans Director of Intelligence Bureau,and that the latter was quite impressed by the quality of work. He would also empathise and express astonishment at the Indian governments inability to recognise her talent.
The emails,sources said,showed she used to pass on regular sundry information. Rana and Jamshed had instructed her to specifically keep a close watch on the activities and meetings of the High Commissioner,Deputy High Commissioner and the R&AW official in the mission. There is apparently evidence to show that she told her handlers about her inability to access high-level information. Yet,she is said to have enthusiastically passed on information like the list of people to whom the High Commissioner sends gifts. And the identities and vehicle numbers of those who visited the High Commission premises.
Subsequently,Rana seemed to have started handing over more difficult tasks to her. There is evidence to show that she was asked to find out about military exercises and deployments,which Gupta said was very difficult for her to obtain though she did make queries,which alerted others in the mission.
He then asked her to get the details of the agenda for the Foreign Secretary-level talks,which were held in February. Later,Rana tasked her to visit Jammu & Kashmir and get details of dams being planned in the state,particularly the Kishenganga project.
It was in this context that she set up the trip to visit her friend Dr Champa Sharma in Rajouri. She returned and told her handlers that there was not much she could get but had put certain other people on the job. Her frequent travels to India are being looked at closely now. She was apparently also delighted when she was asked to come to Delhi in connection with the SAARC meet and shared the same with her handlers. That,however,was an Indian trap to arrest her on espionage charges after six months of rigorous monitoring.
Though the final word is still not out on the investigation front,officials are mostly convinced that she was not part of a larger spy ring and that in the end was an easy target as she felt deprived of recognition.
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