By Prarthana Mitra
An aerospace engineer working on India’s new supersonic cruise missile at the BrahMos Missile Research Centre near Nagpur was arrested on Monday, for allegedly leaking sensitive information about the missile to Pakistan.
Here’s what happened
Nishant Agrawal, 28, has been booked on charges of spying for Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI and other countries, according to the police. According to media reports, he is suspected to have connections with ISI and American intelligence agencies are suspect, and may have been passing on secret information on the missile to these countries.
Developed as a joint venture between the DRDO and Russia’s Military Industrial Consortium, BrahMos is poised to be India’s supersonic cruise missile that can be launched from launched from land, air, sea and under water. “Recently, we demonstrated the vertical dive capability of BrahMos. This can be used against targets in mountains and also against aircraft carriers,” Sudhir Kumar Mishra, chief of BrahMos Aerospace, had told PTI in July 2018. This explains why rival armed forces may be interested in the cutting-edge defence technology.
The operation and investigation
A joint operation led by the Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squads (ATS) ended in Agrawal’s arrest in Ujjal Nagar on Monday. The police searched his home and the Brahmos Aerospace office in Dongargaon, 40 km south of Nagpur. Investigators claimed that Agrawal may have shared details of the missile over Facebook, making him an easy target. They also reportedly found sensitive information on his computer, adding that Agrawal will be subjected to further questioning in Kanpur.
“We never thought that Agrawal would be linked with spying,” his landlord Manohar Kale told Hindustan Times. Kale also informed the media that Agrawal got married to a woman from Bhopal married four months ago.
The first aspersions against him were cast based on the inputs of a member of the Hizbul Mujahideen group, arrested by the Uttar Pradesh ATS in Kanpur last week.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.