Military intelligence has intercepted a local porter Nirmal Rai in Arunachal Pradesh’s Anjaw district, near India-China border on charges of espionage and handed him over to Assam Police.
The accused is a resident of Sadiya in Assam’s Tinsukia district.
The Nepali-speaking Rai was said to be reporting to an ISI handler in Dubai, filing details of Indian troop deployment, armament disposition and military exercises with pictures.
Dubai houses a big ISI station and the agency’s India operations are run from there.
Military intelligence suspects that Rai was picked up by ISI spotters when he worked in a Dubai shop for two years between 2016 and 2018.
“We tracked his activity for two months before we decided to move against him,” said a military intelligence officer on condition of anonymity.
“We have handed him over to police and his mobile phone bears details of all his mails. That proves beyond doubt he was spying for Pakistan and his focus was on the Indian Army in Arunachal Pradesh and eastern Assam,” the officer said.
Arunachal DGP S B K Singh told Northeast Now that Rai was working as porter serving the Indian Army posts at Kibithu and Dichu.
“Rai met a Pakistani national, possibly an ISI officer, who trained him to use his mobile phone for taking pictures and making videos. He was then possibly re-infiltrated into Arunachal Pradesh in 2018,” said S B K Singh, who has served in external intelligence agency R&AW.
Rai’s mobile was used to make videos on Indian Army posts and defences, especially heavy artillery emplacements, Singh said.
He also said Rai was sending these pictures with reports to his Pakistani handler in Dubai and also to a woman in Indonesia whenever he came down to the plains from his forward border locations. .
Military intelligence suspects that the woman could be an under-cover Chinese agent.
“Looks like the Chinese are using Pakistani intelligence assets to spy on our Army. This points to on-field cooperation in intelligence gathering between the two hostile neighbours of India who are all-weather friends,” the military intelligence officer said.
Chinese intelligence seems to have prioritized focusing on Indian military deployment on the Line of Actual Control ever since it blinked after a 73 day face-off at Doklam on the Sikkim-Bhutan-Tibet tri-junction.
The military intelligence officer further said that ISI may have recruited many such Indian nationals in Dubai or other third country locations and then send them to work in border areas as porters.
Porters are usually recruited to carry loads to forward posts of the Indian Army from the nearest road heads and their sustained exposure to the posts helps them garner much information of exact deployment, arms deployed and exercise and patrolling patterns.