Pegasus and a missile system were centerpieces' of $2 bn deal between India and Israel in 2017: NYT

A massive controversy erupted last year when the NSO Group hit the headlines with the alleged use of its Pegasus software by some governments to spy on journalists, human rights defenders and politicians

Press Trust of India January 29, 2022 12:19:28 IST
Pegasus and a missile system were centerpieces' of $2 bn deal between India and Israel in 2017: NYT

Representational Image. Credit: tech2/Nandini Yadav

New York: The Israeli spyware Pegasus and a missile system were the centerpieces of a roughly USD 2 billion deal of sophisticated weapons and intelligence gear between India and Israel in 2017, according to a report in The New York Times.

A massive controversy erupted last year when the NSO Group hit the headlines with the alleged use of its Pegasus software by some governments to spy on journalists, human rights defenders, politicians and others in a number of countries, including India, triggered concerns over issues relating to privacy.

The NYT, in a report titled The Battle for the World's Most Powerful Cyberweapon', said that the Israeli firm NSO Group had for nearly a decade been selling its surveillance software on a subscription basis to law-enforcement and intelligence agencies around the world, promising that it could do what no one else -- not a private company, not even a state intelligence service -- could do: consistently and reliably crack the encrypted communications of any iPhone or Android smartphone.

The report also referred to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Israel in July 2017 - to become the first Indian prime minister to visit the country.

For decades, India had maintained a policy of what it called commitment to the Palestinian cause, and relations with Israel were frosty. The Modi visit, however, was notably cordial, complete with a carefully staged moment of him and (then Israeli) Prime Minister (Benjamin) Netanyahu walking together barefoot on a local beach, it said.

They had reason for the warm feelings. Their countries had agreed on the sale of a package of sophisticated weapons and intelligence gear worth roughly USD 2 billion -- with Pegasus and a missile system as the centerpieces. 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 organisation, a first for the nation, the report said.

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