India and Israel agreed to the sale of a ‘package’ of weapons and intelligence gear. Pegasus and a missile system were the ‘centerpieces’ of this deal.
The Indian government bought Isreali spyware Pegasus as part of a larger arms deal in 2017, according to an investigative report by the New York Times.
The report, published on Friday, revealed that in 2017, India and Israel agreed to a $2 billion sale of a “package” of weapons and intelligence gear. It further stated that Pegasus and a missile system were the “centerpieces” of this deal. In April 2017, it was reported that India had inked a $2 billion deal with Israel Aerospace Industries for supply of air defence missiles to the Indian Army.
The NYT report reveals how Israel reaped diplomatic gains around the world from NSO’s Pegasus spyware﹘a tool America itself purchased but is now trying to ban.
Commenting on how Pegasus has been misused, the report states, “The combination of Israel’s search for influence and NSO’s drive for profits has also led to the powerful spying tool’s ending up in the hands of a new generation of nationalist leaders worldwide. Though the Israeli government’s oversight was meant to prevent the powerful spyware from being used in repressive ways, Pegasus has been sold to Poland, Hungary and India, despite those countries’ questionable records on human rights.”
The report primarily focuses on the United States of America, in the backdrop of how the sale of Pegasus has helped Israel forge diplomatic relations with various countries. While it also touches upon Mexico and Poland, the report also points to the diplomatic thaw in India’s ties with Israel after the 2017 deal. It notes India’s vote supporting Israel at the United Nations Economic and Social Council to deny observer status to a Palestinian human rights organisation in 2019.
After an international consortium of media organisations carried out an investigation into Pegasus last year, it was revealed that the spyware had been used to target and hack phones of various global leaders, journalists and activists. In India, the Wire had reported that at least 40 journalists had been potentially targeted by the spyware, at the time.
In August 2021, the defence ministry, in response to questions raised in the Rajya Sabha, said that it had not carried out any transactions with the Israel based NSO group, which owns Pegasus. In September 2021, the centre, despite an extension granted by the Supreme Court, had refused to file a response to petitions pertaining to the Pegasus scandal, citing “national security”.
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