‘Espionage’ for ISI: Investigation started by detaining Army ‘jawan’

New Delhi, February 26: The Indian Army has taken seriously the matter of leaking classified military information related to Northern Command to Pakistan’s intelligence agency The Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

However, an investigation has been started in the Army’s 16 Corps at Nagrota after detaining the soldier. The leaked data includes secret military maps, information on troops and their assets stationed at advance posts on Line of Actual Control (LAC) and Line of Control (LOC). This data leaked when LAC, China’s border, is active in eastern Ladakh.

The Northern Command of the Indian Army has the responsibility of maintaining the border with Pakistan and China. The Northern Command is currently headed by Lieutenant General YK Joshi. The displacement process of both the armies in the Pangong Lake area after the agreement with India is also under their supervision. The soldier is accused of transferring a large portion of sensitive secret information from this northern command to a Pakistan-based handler.

However, it is not yet clear how this ‘jawan’ managed to smuggle data from the Indian security command but sources have described it as a high level of breach, which could have an impact on the security of the troops deployed in the area.

The violation came weeks before India and Pakistan announced a cease-fire on February 25. The army has declined to comment officially on the matter, but sources said the soldier belonged to the Udhampur (Punjab) regiment of infantry.

He was posted in a sensitive wing at the headquarters of the Northern Command. He is being interrogated at the Army’s 16 Corps Headquarters at Nagrota, 50 km northeast of Udhampur.

Sources have also feared holding several senior officials accountable after the initial investigation.

Sources say that it is a matter of concern that this case of data leakage is not in the internal investigation of the army but in the hold of the counter-intelligence arm of the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) of India.

The Army has its own internal counter-intelligence machinery strong enough in its most sensitive operational command. It has caught many espionage cases before but it is being seen as the biggest top level lapse. Also, this case is a warning bell for the army as to why so much sensitive data was found at one place and why security protocols could not prevent such sensitive information from leaking.

Sources say that it is also possible to investigate from this angle whether this data was compiled for a different operational purpose and leaked into the ‘transform’. Even if this angle is correct in the investigation, it is serious because the army has powerful security protocols at every possible step.

Sources reveal that USB drives have been banned in the military for many years and all data handling devices, digital protocols and standard operating procedures have already been removed. Therefore, a technical angle investigation will also try to find out what method was used to transfer the data.

Army Chief General Manoj Mukund Narwane said that at the time when the issue of espionage has come to light, it is not surprising. While all such espionage cases are viewed with seriousness, there are several reasons why this Northern Command data leak case is being looked down upon with particular strictness.

“The most important thing is that this data leak took place when the Indian Army is active on two fronts simultaneously in East Ladakh with China and on LoC with Pakistan, Army Chief Narwane told.

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