India bought controversial spyware Pegasus as part of the arms deal in 2017; NYT reported

India bought controversial Israeli-made Pegasus spyware as part of a USD 2-billion arms deal in 2017 as per the reports published by The New York Times. According to the reports India had reportedly signed the arms deal during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s landmark visit to Israel.

The report titled ‘The Battle for the World’s Most Powerful Cyberweapon’, claimed that the spyware, which is classified as military-grade software and produced by the Israeli firm NSO Group, was part of a “package of sophisticated weapons and intelligence gear worth roughly USD two billion” between India and Israel.

The report further mentioned that months later, Netanyahu made a rare state visit to India and in June 2019, “India voted in support of Israel at the UN’s Economic and Social Council to deny observer status to a Palestinian human rights organization, a first for the nation.” Besides India, several other countries including the United States, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Poland, Hungary had bought Pegasus to spy on politicians, journalists, human rights defenders and others, the newspaper reported, citing a year-long investigation.

A political storm erupted after n international media consortium had last year reported that more than 300 verified mobile phone numbers of eminent personalities, including opposition leaders and ministers in India could have been allegedly targeted for hacking through Israeli Pegasus spyware sold only to government agencies. The BJP government has categorically dismissed allegations of any kind of surveillance on its part on specific people, saying attempts were being made to hostile Indian democracy.

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