Damini McNaught, IAF, honey traps: Only Chanakya can help India tackle the ‘Vish Kanyas’

As Indians soaked themselves in the warmth generated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's sudden landing in Lahore to meet his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif, a less assuring development made the headlines and it is a worrying one.

An Air Force man was arrested in Punjab on Monday for passing on secret information after being trapped by a cyber entity in the name of Damini McNaught who pretended to work with a British magazine that sought information on the IAF for its next issue. Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) is suspected of using social media site like Facebook to lay honey trap for the defence personnel to gain access to secrets.


The entire scheme of things whereby fictitious Facebook accounts apparently belonging to attractive women are being used to lure the personnel came out in the open after an ISI-backed espionage racket was busted by the Delhi Police in early December.

Other reports said that 900 women have been trained for this purpose between 2012 and 2014. Army intelligence officials believe if the personnel themselves do not restrain themselves from over-indulgence in social networking, then more such instances of national secrets getting leaked out to the enemies abroad would occur.

Big threat for the country of Chanakya?

This issue brings us to a pertinent question: Being the country of Chanakya, the shrewdest of all politicians India has produced till date, why we can't predict these tactics of statecraft and if necessary, strike back?

Chanakya's supreme espionage system

Chanakya was instrumental behind the rise of a young Emperor Chandragupta Maurya and the mighty Magadh Empire. The empire always had threats from the enemy quarters but all attempts to harm the emperor, internal or external, could be made unsuccessful effectively, thanks to the master tactician's emphasis on espionage. It was Chanakya's impeccable skills in the statecraft of espionage that had made all the difference between Magadh and its enemies; his own immortality and the mortality of his foes.

After appointment of ministers, the king put his spies in place to monitor the ministers' moves and also test the water to see if there was any move being made against him, whether internally or with external helps.

The sophisticated covert wings efficiently gauged the mood across the empire and even engineered self-serving moves in enemy states to ensure that no adversity had ever any chance to threaten the powerful Magadh Empire. The competent intelligence officers with a loyalty to their motherland, the covers used by the agents and the flawless transmission of intelligence had made Chanakya's entire espionage network a big hit.

Do we follow Chanakya's pragmatism today?

Does today's India feel equally motivated to pursue the espionage process as Chanakya had done several years ago? Even a number of other countries and their world-famous intelligence agencies have cared to take a cue from Chanakya. But we still can't shield our own soldiers from falling prey to the honey traps being laid by the enemy agencies and neutralise the threat with a counter-espionage tactic.

Chanakya also emphasised on anti-espionage

Yes, counter-espionage tactic is another significant part of the espionage story, according to Chanakya. He felt just having an effective spy system to keep a watch on the enemy state's activities isn't enough. Also required is a parallel espionage network which would neutralise the enemy agencies from extracting state secrets.

The ruler needs to deploy a group of spies to counter those anti-national spies through deceitful means like pretending acts of disloyalty. In the case of our defence personnel being allured and trapped by the enemies through honey traps, have we been able to counter it in ways that Chanakya would have preferred?

Have the ‘Vish Kanyas' rattled us today?

Is our defence establishments rattled over women spies being employed by the enemies to get secret information?

If we heed to Chanakya, women spies are nothing new in statecraft. In fact, women spies give the entire game the edge that makes it more challenging. She can be the only channel of communication between the static and moving spies or between the topmost and the lowest rungs which means dealing with this menace needs equally flexible counter moves.

One of Chanakya's categorisation of short-term deployment of spies speaks about women. The thinker favours widows and poor single women who can play roles of insignificant agents. Chanakya suggested that the women spies be educated so that they could interact with the elite women and enter their private chambers for more information. The fact that women could get through in various guises and can have access to various sections of the society make them all the more flexible in the entire scheme of things.

Despite the teachings, it seems there is a sense of helplessness in dealing with the threats posed by the women spies to our defence establishments.

Are we adding more of a moral angle to the ruthless business of statecraft and defeating the enemy as a means to preserve the national interests? Gender makes little difference in this game. Remember, it was Chanakya who had turned the tables on his emperor's enemies by counter-deploying the ‘Vish Kanya' (poison damsel).

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