In Brief

Lonely Indian soldiers catfished by Pakistani spies

Senior general warns soldiers to be sceptical of phony Facebook accounts

Pakistani operatives are posing as attractive women online to “catfish” Indian soldiers into handing over sensitive information, military chiefs have warned.

Indian Army personnel have been warned to be on their guard or face severe consequences, following a series of cases in which soldiers’ online paramours turned out to be working on behalf of ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence agency.

In the latest case, a private in the Armoured Corps was “found sharing pictures and location of exercises involving Arjun tanks” with a woman he met on Facebook who was actually an ISI operative, the Deccan Herald reports.

The 22-year-old was arrested by police in Rajasthan. If convicted of violating India’s Official Secrets Act, he faces up to three years in prison.

Investigators have since established that as many as 50 other soldiers may have been in touch with the agent, who posed as an Indian Army nurse called Anika Chopra.

“In her profile picture, she is seen wearing a green saree and a pretty smile,” says News 18. “That smile has now landed 50 jawans [soldiers] under the scanner of intelligence agencies.”

Under military regulations introduced in 2015, servicemen are banned from sharing any operational information online. However, this has not prevented a series of high-profile embarrassments involving honey-trap scams.

The Deccan Herald notes that the latest incident “comes a year after an Indian Air Force Group Captain was arrested on espionage charges for sharing classified information to a woman, suspected to be a Pakistani spy, using social media”.

Some Pakistani operatives “use Bollywood actresses’ names to entice recruits into online relationships”, CNN reports.

Last week, India’s senior army officer admitted that “a lot of people” had fallen victim to such scams, and urged soldiers to be sceptical of fake accounts.

“I tell my boys: Do you think that your film star wants to become friendly with you?” General Bipin Rawat said during an address to the media. “But yet people are getting trapped by these names.”

He encouraged any soldiers who had been taken in by online catfish to come forward or risk dire consequences.

“For those people who are not reporting the matter, if it comes to our notice that they have been continuously flouting the rules of social media, the punishment being meted is heavy,” he said.

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