New Delhi, India —several people in sensitive positions in the Defense Ministry, the president’s office and on the prime minister’s staff have been arrested in India’s largest espionage case since independence, Home Minister S.B. Chavan said Monday.

Chavan also told Parliament that a foreign agent involved in the spy case “has been withdrawn from our country,” apparently referring to a French military attache who was recalled to Paris on Sunday. The minister gave no specifics on the country involved or the number of people arrested.

The Indian Express newspaper said Sunday that a French diplomat was being deported for involvement in the alleged spy case and that he worked for the Central Intelligence Agency.

Another newspaper, the pro-Soviet Patriot, said six American, French and West German diplomats ‘‘behind the espionage ring busted last week are being asked to leave India.”’

A U.S. Embassy spokesman said, “We don’t have any comment on this.”” The West German Embassy called the report ‘‘absolutely baseless.” A spokesman for the Indian External Affairs Ministry refused to comment.

Chavan said the government ‘‘would not hesitate taking action against (even) the highest authority.”

The United News of India, meanwhile, reported four more arrests, including a deputy secretary of the Defense Ministry and an official of the Commerce Ministry.

The news agency quoted unnamed intelligence sources as reporting that more than 20 arrests would be made in the next few days.

There were conflicting reports about the exact number of arrests.

Government sources, who asked not to be named, reported 14 people arrested 11 of them government employees, from Thursday through Sunday in connection with an alleged plot to turn over defense secrets and information about internal operations and policies to an Indian civilian for transmittal to a foreign agent. But UNI put the figure at 15, including the latest arrests.

Article extracted from this publication >> January 25, 1985