According to the report in The New York Times, the Israeli spyware Pegasus and a missile system were the “centrepieces” of a roughly $2-billion deal of sophisticated weapons and intelligence gear including a missile system between India and Israel in 2017.

The year-long investigation, the newspaper reported, revealed that the Federal Bureau of Investigation, too, had bought and tested the spyware “for years with plans to use it for domestic surveillance until the agency finally decided last year not to deploy the tools.”

The report details how the spyware was used globally, by Mexico to target journalists and dissidents, and by Saudi Arabia against women’s rights activists and associates of columnist Jamal Khashoggi who was killed by Saudi operatives. 

It says that under a set of new deals licensed by the Israeli Ministry of Defence, Pegasus was provided to Poland, Hungary and India, and other countries.

The report mentioned that months later Netanyahu, Israeli Prime Minister at that time, “made a rare state visit to India” and in June 2019 “India voted in support of Israel at the U.N.’s Economic and Social Council to deny observer status to a Palestinian human rights organization, a first for the nation.”

Until now, neither the Indian Government nor the Israeli Government has admitted that India bought Pegasus.

cartoon pegasus modi splco
Indian Cartoons take a swipe at India PM modi handling economy using pegasus spyware scam

Reacting to this news Attacking the government, Leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge said on twitter, “Why did Modi Govt act like the enemies of India and use a warfare weapon against Indian citizens?”

In a tweet, Shiv Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi alleged the spyware was used not for defence purposes but to snoop on opposition and journalists.

“If there is BJP, it is possible. They have made the country into a Bigg Boss show,” she said in a tweet in Hindi.

BJP MP Subramanian Swamy said, “Modi government must rebut New York Times revelations today that It did indeed subscribe by payment from tax payers money of ? 300 crores to spyware Pegasus sold by Israeli NSO company.”

“This implies prima facie our Govt misled Supreme Court and Parliament. Watergate?” he tweeted.

MP and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has hit out at the Centre, saying that it has committed treason while reacting to a New York Times report which claimed that the Indian government bought the Pegasus spy tool in 2017 as part of a deal with Israel.

He tweeted, “The Modi government bought Pegasus to spy on state leaders and the public. They have targeted the ruling party, the Opposition, the court, by tapping their phones. This is treason. The Modi government has committed treason.”

An international investigative consortium had claimed last year that many people including Indian ministers, politicians, activists, businessmen and journalists were potentially targeted by the NSO Group’s phone hacking software.

The Supreme Court had set up a three-member independent expert panel to probe the alleged use of Pegasus for targeted surveillance in India.