New Delhi, India — Intelligence officers were tipped to India’s biggest spy scandal by opening the pages of The Washington Post and The New York Times last September, an Indian newspaper reported today.

The Hindustan Times said the spy-busting operation was launched when details of a secret CIA briefing to a Senate committee ‘“‘leaked’’ to the two influential newspapers.

The CIA report to the Senate Intelligence Committee involved a recommendation allegedly made by military advisers to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi for a preemptive strike on a Pakistani nuclear facility. Gandhi was assassinated on Oct. 31, 1984, and her son, Rajiv, was elected her successor in December.

It detailed New Delhi’s contingency plan to attack the Pakistani nuclear installation at Kahuta to cripple the facility before it could achieve the potential of making nuclear bombs, the Hindustan Times said.

The attack was to be patterned after Israel’s strike on an Iraqi reactor in 1982, the newspaper said.

The Hindustan Times generally supportive of the Gandhi government said the disclosure in U.S. newspapers of India’s top-secret strike plan ‘‘sent shivers down the spine of the Indian counterintelligence.

“It was at that time they began smelling a rat and mounted surveillance on the aides of the prime minister and their staff, leading to the busting of the biggest ever spy ring,’’ the newspaper said, quoting intelligence sources.

The Press Trust of India said 15 government workers and Indian businessmen have been arrested in the espionage case.

The Press Trust identified the head of the operation as New Delhi businessman Coomar Narian, who allegedly recruited the officials to provide him with photocopies of top secret documents.

Narian is accused of passing the documents to a French military attache, who in turn gave them to the CIA. The French attache was re-called to Paris Sunday for “consultations” with his government.

The Indian government has refused to disclose details of the spy network, other than confirming that a foreign agent was asked to leave the country and that a number of government officials were arrested.

 There were persistent reports in the Indian press that diplomats from the United States and West Germany may be asked to leave, but the reports have not been officially confirmed.


Article extracted from this publication >> January 25, 1985