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IFS officer's arrest a rude shock

delhi Updated: Apr 27, 2010 23:14 IST

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Arrested IFS officer Madhuri Gupta may not be in the league of famous women spies Mata Hari and Virginia Hall but the allegations that she was passing on sensitive information to ISI agents is a rude shock to the Indian establishment.

India's external Intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) like any other snooping organisation of the world has a history of agents who had switched their loyalties towards countries where they were working.

Mata Hari's name became synonymous with espionage and the Dutch dancer, whose real name was Gertrud Margarete Zelle, was executed by a French firing squad in 1917 on charges of being a spy. Virginia Hall was an American spy during the Second World War and the Gestapo (Nazi political police) considered her the most dangerous of all allied spies.

The most infamous case which shook RAW out of reverie was of Rabinder Singh who became a mole of American Intelligence agency CIA and flew to the US despite being under RAW surveillance.

Singh, who initially worked with the Indian Army, held a very senior position with RAW handling Southeast Asia. By the time the agency sensed his affiliations, Singh too smelled a rat and escaped to the US through Nepal.

In 2007, RAW had to call back its 1975 batch officer Ravi Nair from Colombo because of his alleged "involvement" with a woman agent of Chinese intelligence acting as honey trap for him.

According to reports, after the Rabinder Singh incident, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had sought details of RAW officials who have either gone missing or changed their loyalties.

A list of about nine such officials was presented before him who deserted the organisation since it was formed in late 60s to serve Indian intelligence purposes.

Official sources say a personal assistant to a very senior RAW official disappeared in London in the early 90s.

Ashok Sathe, another official was also believed to have defected to the US after his mysterious disappearance. Sathe was said to be behind burning down of RAW office in Khurramshahr, Iran.

In the early 1980s a senior field officer disappeared in London. As attache in Kathmandu, he was alleged to be liaisoning with foreign intelligence agencies.