(TibetanReview.net, Sep20’20) – The Special Cell of Delhi police had on Sep 18 announced the arrest of Rajeev Sharma, a 61-year-old independent journalist, strategic affairs analyst and author, who had for years written for China’s unabashedly nationalist, often trenchantly anti-India mouthpiece global Times for having passed on information such as deployment of Indian troops on the border to Chinese intelligence officers. He had in 2018 written patently false reports, citing “credible sources” , to claim that Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, was terminally ill with last stage prostate cancer and that there was rift between him and the executive head of the exile Tibetan administration, writing for thequint.com (exclusively) and southasianmonitor.com.
It has now emerged that he had been paid to write about the Dalai Lama-related issues and was offered USD 500 per article or information, according to several news reports, including by the indianexpress.com, Sep 20.
Also arrested in connection with his Official Secrets Act (OSA) case were reported to be a 30- year-old Chinese woman and her Nepalese accomplice. They were alleged to have supplied Sharma with “huge amounts of money routed through hawala channels for conveying sensitive information to Chinese intelligence”.
Shell companies were reported to have been set up overseas to route money to Sharma. Qing Shi, the Chinese national arrested, was reported to have run the India wing of a Chinese company that was allegedly among Sharma’s “handlers”.
At a press conference, DCP (Special Cell) Sanjeev Kumar Yadav has said a case had been filed under the OSA on Sep 13, and Sharma was arrested the next day.
While the police have been evasive on queries on the nature of the documents allegedly shared by Sharma, an officer has told The Sunday Express, “We have recovered PDFs and other documents with maps and information on Army deployments on the India-China border from Sharma’s email. Sharma also had secret information about the India-Myanmar border situation. We are checking all the mails and documents to get their source.”
Yadav has said, “During 2010-2014, Sharma wrote a weekly column for Global Times, widely known as a mouthpiece of the Chinese government. Observing those columns, one Chinese intelligence agent named Michael from Kunming city of China contacted Sharma through his LinkedIn account and invited him to Kunming for an interview with a Chinese media company.”
He has continued that during questioning, Sharma admitted that “Michael and his junior Xou asked him to provide inputs on various aspects of India-China relations. Between 2016 and 2018, Sharma was in contact with the two and he was tasked with providing information on issues such as Indian deployment on the Bhutan-Sikkim-China tri-junction, including Doklam, the pattern of India-Myanmar military cooperation, and the India-China boundary issue. He had meetings with Michael and Xou in Laos and Maldives.”
In Jan 2019, Sharma was stated to have come in contact with another Kunming-based person called George, who “introduced himself as a general manager of a Chinese media company”. “Sharma visited Kunming via Kathmandu and met George… During the meeting, George asked Sharma to write about Dalai Lama-related issues, for which he was offered USD 500 per article or information… He was told that they will send him money through the company’s sister concern, based in Delhi’s Mahipalpur,” the police were quoted as saying.
This sister concern was being operated by Qing Shi who had pursued her M.Sc. from Jamia Hamdard Nursing College from 2013 to 2015. The Nepalese resident who has been arrested was identified as Sher Singh alias Raj Bohra.
Yadav has said, “From Jan 2019 to Sep 2020, Sharma received more than Rs 30 lakh from George in about 10 installments. Sharma had meetings with George in Malaysia and Kunming.”
Sharma was previously employed with the United News of India, The Tribune, and Sakaal Times. He has continued to write as an “independent journalist” for Global Times, including a recent piece titled “A rapprochement road map for Beijing and New Delhi benefits both countries”.
The Press Club of India, of which Sharma is a member, has released a statement, criticizing his arrest. Calling him “a well-known independent journalist”, it said, “Sharma’s six-day police remand… evidently for relaying defence-related information to China, appears mind-boggling. He wrote on strategic affairs and may well have accessed routinely over-classified information on the Internet that is in the public domain… On the basis of the statement of the police… we have no hesitation in saying that the police action is high-handed, and may be inspired by obscure or questionable considerations.”
In the meanwhile, the Delhi Police has said it will seek help from the Defence Ministry and Enforcement Directorate for assistance in investigation of the alleged espionage racket on the basis of the documents they had seized from Sharma, according to the indianexpress.com Sep 21.