Madhuri Gupta was exploited for her insecurities?

When Madhuri Gupta got a chance to work on her Urdu language skills in Islamabad, exposing her to virulent anti-India propaganda from rightwing Pakistani media, it didn`t take long for her to turn against her own country.

New Delhi: She was a lonely spinster with a taste for life`s good and extravagant things. She also bore a grudge against her superiors. And when Madhuri Gupta got a chance to work on her Urdu language skills at the Indian mission in Islamabad, exposing her to virulent anti-India propaganda from rightwing Pakistani media, it didn`t take long for the junior Indian diplomat to turn against her own country.

Piecing together information from her confessions and a dissection of her e-mails, interrogators have profiled a woman who fell for blandishments and non-financial lures to sell her country`s secrets as she indulged in her weaknesses. The 53-year-old, who was second secretary in the press and information section at the Indian High Commission at Islamabad, also saw it as an opportunity to get even with her bosses at the external affairs ministry who would not even grant her paid study leave she thought she was entitled to.

So she used her knowledge of Urdu to familiarise herself with the issues that bedevil bilateral issues, kept her eyes and ears wide open for the vital and the trivial and made frequents trips to New Delhi to bring herself up to speed with the current thinking on Pakistan, giving her insights from what she was able to gather on the peace dialogue, SAARC, terrorism and military issues.

But just as curiosity killed the cat, her "unusual" eagerness to inform herself about military matters of concern to Pakistan earned the suspicion of the defence attache`s office at the Indian High Commission who then trapped her with false leads that ultimately led to her undoing and her arrest here last week.

"It was this undue curiosity of things that did not concern her that proved her undoing," said a well-informed source with access to her interrogators`s reports.

But it is yet unclear what Gupta got from her handlers, who included members of Pakistan`s Intelligence Bureau leading perhaps up to the notorious Inter-Services Intelligence, as her bank accounts have not revealed any unusual transactions or large deposits.

"She does not seem to have done this either for money or love," the sources told a news agency, but said the jury was still out on her and more secrets might come out in the course of further interrogation and investigation.

The possibility of Gupta acting as she did just to "get back" at her "tormentors" in the MEA is not altogether being ruled out, but the gravity of her actions and the sustained period of several months for which she played the mole for the Pakistanis is making counter-intelligence authorities here delve further. They are hoping that the reading of her computer hard disc would throw up more evidence and clues.

There is little doubt that the Pakistanis played on her psychological insecurities: a lonely woman, with no parents, her only sibling a brother not much in contact; a woman who drank and ate heavily, had flamboyant tastes in clothes and jewellery and was susceptible to pampering with personal gifts.

Her knowledge of Urdu that exposed her to major Pakistani newspapers, particularly papers like the Nawa-i-Waqt, owned by Majid Nizami, widely believed to be connected to Lashkar-e-Toiba founder Hafiz Saeed also with known links to the ISI, proved potent motivational influences for her, officials said.

However, it is unlikely that she was able to pass on reports of any significant or sensitive nature other than the high commission`s activities, and till now there is no indication that there has been any serious security compromise or that important documents were traded, knowledgeable sources added.

A thorough study of her mails revealed that she was a "faithful reporter" of the events and schedules at the Indian High Commission, giving daily and weekly reports of the engagements of the high commissioner and other staff and other schedules which she diligently kept track of.

"We are pretty certain that no serious damage to India`s security interests have been caused (by her transgressions)," a senior security official told, speaking with full knowledge and authority.

"To the best of our knowledge, she has not passed on a single document to her handlers," the official said. "Most of what she said was pretty routine stuff."

Gupta, a member of the secondary cadre known as Indian Foreign Service-B, was employed as a Urdu translator who also mixed with Pakistan`s Urdu media journalists by being in the media department of the mission. However, most of her time went in scanning and translating news and information of interest to India from about 15 Urdu newspapers and magazines, leaving her with little time to do other things, sources in the know said.

But in a city like Islamabad, where movements of Indian diplomats are restricted and tracked, the social circle is largely limited to Indian High Commission gatherings where a staffer can easily pick up interesting tidbits that could be useful to the Pakistanis.

She had earlier worked with the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA), a foreign policy think tank, besides missions in Kuala Lumpur and Baghdad, before she was posted to Islamabad. She had then shown great keenness to go to Pakistan citing her fluency in Urdu.


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