Australia Expelled Indian Spies: MEA Terms Media Reports as Speculative, Declines Comment

Foreign Affairs

New Delhi: The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) May 2 refused to comment on Australian media reports that alleged that the Commonwealth country expelled two Indian spies who were trying to ‘steal secrets’ and termed them as “speculative reports.”

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“We see them as speculative reports. We really have no comments to make on those reports,” MEA spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal said in a press briefing.

Earlier, Australian media reported that Canberra expelled two Indian spies after being caught trying to steal secrets about sensitive defence projects and airport security, as well as classified information on Australia’s trade relationships.

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ABC News reported that the so-called foreign “nest of spies” disrupted by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) in 2020 was also accused of closely monitoring Indians living here and developing close relationships with current and former politicians.

ABC News reported citing the ASIO Director-General Mike Burgess who first alluded to the spy ring in his annual threat assessment delivered in 2021, but, he did not disclose which country was behind the activity, saying to do so would be an “unnecessary distraction”.

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“The spies developed targeted relationships with current and former politicians, a foreign embassy and a state police service,” Burgess said during his March 2021 speech inside ASIO’s Canberra headquarters.

“They monitored their country’s diaspora community. They tried to obtain classified information about Australia’s trade relationships.

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“They asked a public servant to provide information on security protocols at a major airport,” ABC reported.

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On  May 1, on being asked about the matter, Australian Foreign Minister, Penny Wong reaffirmed bilateral ties with India and said that Australia remains consistent with interests and values of engagement, adding that they don’t comment on Intelligence matters.

“Well, you would be unsurprised to hear me respond that we don’t comment on intelligence matters. But at a level of principle about the democracy, I think you would have heard me and other Ministers on many occasions assert the importance of our democratic principles, assert the importance of ensuring that we maintain the resilience of our democracy, including in the face of any suggestion of foreign interference, and we have laws to deal with that. And to continue to say that we deeply value the multicultural fabric of the Australian community. It is a strength and we welcome people’s continued engagement in our democracy,” she said.

 

“Well, again, say we don’t comment on intelligence matters, but as a matter of general principles, Australia remains consistent to our interests and to our values in all of our engagements,” she added.