They finally caught Madhuri Gupta. But she was surprised they took so long. The 54-year-old Indian diplomat in the Islamabad high commission has been arrested for spying for Pakistan.
They were two years too late though, Gupta told investigators.
Gupta was arrested from her house in east Delhi by a team of Delhi Police Special Cell and counter-intelligence operatives after she arrived in the Capital from Islamabad on April 23.
This is the first time a woman diplomat has been arrested for spying.
The official had been summoned to India ostensibly for helping with the upcoming Saarc summit, starting in Bhutan on Wednesday. She might never return, if the true purpose of her trip was disclosed to her, said investigators.
Gupta was produced in a court the same day and sent into police custody for four days, which was over on Monday, when she was produced again in a Tis Hazari court and ordered to stay with the police.
She is in the custody of the Special Cell of the Delhi Police.
The exact details of her arrest, however, and how she came under suspicion were not immediately available on Tuesday. The official version was sketchy and woefully inadequate.
“We have reason to believe an official in the High Commis-sion of India in Islamabad had been passing information to the Pakistani intelligence agencies,” said External Affairs Ministry spokesman Vishnu Prakash.
Gupta is said to have first come under suspicion for asking “too many questions” about the foreign secretary level talks in February. She didn’t need to know much about it.
Gupta was posted to Islamabad three years ago and worked in the section dealing with the press and hosting events for the mission, and, said sources, didn’t have access to very sensitive information.
In 2008, she was promoted to second secretary in the IFS. The same year, investigators said, she picked up a male friend, Rana, suspected of being her Pakistani handler.
It’s still not clear what made her switch sides. Investigators are looking at several angles: did she do it for money, out of resentment of her seniors or is she the victim of a honey trap laid by Pakistani intelligence.
Investigators in Delhi and Islamabad are trying to find if other officials had a role. “There is a possibility she got close to some officials at the high commission to get information.”
She was found to be behaving suspiciously, investigators said. This was noticed some months ago, around the time of the February talks. “She was too curious on the position Delhi would take at the foreign secretary-level talks.”
She would also want to know about outstation visits undertaken by officials of the high commission. And, the clincher, some officials noticed she preferred travelling alone rather than in groups as was the practice, specially for diplomats posted to Pakistan.