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Watch out for spies, oil cos told

The communication by Petroleum Ministry is based on information gathered by intelligence bodies, report Sandeep Bamzai and Deepak Joshi.

india Updated: May 06, 2006 10:29 IST

Taking note of stepped up undercover economic intelligence-gathering activities by Pakistani operatives out of Pakistan and the Pakistani High Commission, the Petroleum Ministry has written to public-sector oil companies, cautioning them against such designs.

Dated May 1, the communication is based on information gathered by Indian intelligence agencies.

In the confidential note addressed to the marketing directors of top Indian oil-marketing companies — Indian Oil, Bharat Petroleum, Hindustan Petroleum and IBP Co — ministry officials have said that since such incidents are taking place, an across-the-company alert needs to be issued. “You're requested to issue instructions to all the concerned for exercising caution while passing information over the phone,” says the note.

While tracking Pakistani operatives through telephone calls, the Intelligence Bureau found that efforts were being made to gather details about the functioning of oil companies, the quality and quantity of fuel being produced, and the companies’ future plans.

To the Indian side, the interest shown by Pakistan seemed unusual and pointed to a shift from low-intensity terrorism to targeting India’s economic interests.

Recent oil and gas finds, and the increasing interest of oil MNCs in India seem to have left Pakistan intelligence agencies worried. With the sixth round of bids under the New Exploration Licensing Policy expected later this year, the interest shown by Pakistan’s intelligence set-up has disturbed the government.