A Defence Research and Development Organisation employee was detained on Monday on allegations of leaking sensitive information about the nuclear-capable BrahMos cruise missile to Pakistan, IndiaToday reported.
The DRDO employee was detained on suspicion charges and is currently being questioned. Sources reveal that some suspicious material was recovered in the employee’s possession.
The employee identified as Nishant Agarwal was arrested from Maharashtra’s Nagpur in a joint operation carried out by the Military Intelligence and the Uttar Pradesh Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) with the local police providing the tactical support.
Agarwal was employed at a BrahMos production unit near Nagpur for the past four years. He is suspected guilty of having shared classified information and technical data about the BrahMos missile system with Pakistani agencies.
In his mid-20s, Agarwal supervised the Hydraulics-Pneumatics and Warhead Integration wing of the missiles’ production department.
The BrahMos is a medium-range, supersonic cruise missile that can be deployed from ships, submarine, aircraft, or land. It is the fastest cruise missile in the world currently and was developed in a collaboration between India’s DRDO and the Russian Federation’s NPO Mashinostroyeniya. The BrahMos missile helped India complete a ‘Supersonic Cruise Missile Triad’, last year in November. The triad was achieved after an Indian Air Force Sukhoi-30MKI fighter jet successfully deployed a variant of the BrahMos missile from the air.
Highly reliable sources in the ATS reveal that Agarwal used a “coded game” to send sensitive information to Pakistani ISI agents. Efforts to decode the game codes and decrypt the data are still underway.
Agarwal’s name came under scrutiny during the interrogation of BSF jawan Achyutanand Mishra, arrested last month from Delhi. The ATS team landed in Nagpur late Sunday night and raided Agarwal’s rented accommodation in Ujjwal Nagar. The ATS interrogated him until the afternoon after which he was arrested under the Official Secrets Act.
Agarwal was heading a 40 personnel team, including technical supervisors, system engineers, and technicians. He was also managing the BrahMos sites in Nagpur and Pilani, ATS officials said.
Two of Agarwal’s engineering colleagues, a man from Agra and a woman from Kanpur are also under scrutiny following their alleged role in the espionage. A search was carried out in both their premises but no evidence came to light.
The cops recovered Agarwal’s laptop containing the sensitive material, after the arrest. Investigations are underway as to how he transferred this information to the laptop. Storing the information on his personal laptop was a violation of the Official Secrets Act according to an ATS official and grounds for an arrest. Another laptop has been recovered from the suspect’s residence.
Officials at the BrahMos centre were also questioned by investigators. Meanwhile, police are in touch with the central intelligence agencies to verify the material seized from Agarwal.
Raids in relation to the alleged espionage are still ongoing as of last updating this report and further investigations into the high profile case are still underway.