New delhi police have arrested a veteran indian journalist on suspicion of spying for china, as the two countries are locked in a military stand-off over their disputed himalayan border.
Rajeev sharma, who primarily wrote on foreign and strategic affairs, was a regular contributor to several indian news outlets, but also wrote occasionally for global times, the chinese government-owned nationalist tabloid.
In a press briefing on saturday, sanjeev kumar yadav, deputy commissioner of the new delhi police, said mr sharma was being held on suspicion of violating indias colonial-era official secrets act, a broad anti-espionage law that makes sharing secret government information punishable by up to 14 years in prison.
Police said the journalist had passed sensitive defence and strategic information to kunming-based chinese intelligence officials, who contacted him via the social-networking platform linkedin in 2016, after he started writing for the global times.
The police statement said the journalist travelled in 2016 to kunming, where he was asked to supply information about indias army movements, defence procurement and information about indias disputed border with china in exchange for cash and luxury holidays.
Given the amount of money, he must have given in to greed, mr yadav told reporters.
A chinese woman running a business exporting indian pharmaceuticals to china, and her two nepali associates, have also been arrested for their alleged involvement. the police said they helped route payments to mr sharma through shell companies.
The police statement alleged that mr sharma received around rs3m ($41,000) between january 2019 and the present in exchange for information he provided, and had previously been paid $500 per article for writing on the exiled tibetan spiritual leader, the dalai lama.
Mr sharma was detained on september 14, and remains in police custody, but his arrest was only announced this weekend. neither he, his family or a legal representative could be reached for comment.
The journalists detention came a week after the global times published an article he wrote entitled: a rapprochement road map for beijing and new delhi benefits both countries.
In it, mr sharma argued the military stand-off between the nuclear-armed neighbours could wreck their economy and many precious things if the situation isnt amicably eased in double-quick time.
Tension between beijing and new delhi has surged this summer, as tens of thousands of troops have jockeyed for position along the ill-defined line of control in the inhospitable ladakh region.
A vicious june clash between rival troops in the galwan valley lead to the deaths of 20 indian soldiers, and an unknown number of chinese casualties. analysts say the situation at the border region is on a knifes edge, with high risk of escalation, given the proximity of heavily armed troops.
Indias official secrets act, which became law in 1923, is controversial as it does not clearly define what constitutes secret government information. indian lawmakers and experts have in recent years debated the need to modernise the act to bring it in line with current standards of transparency, and the right to information, but no steps have been taken.
Mr sharma had four decades of journalism experience, working for indian news organisations, and contributing to foreign publications such as the diplomat, an asia-pacific focused international affairs magazine.