A Muslim teacher at a mosque in Rajasthan's Nagaur district, whose visitors included eminent serving and retired officers from the armed forces, allegedly leaked sensitive information to a Pakistani staffer working at the visa section of the High Commission in New Delhi for anything between Rs 30,000 and Rs 50,000 per document, according to reports.
Maulana Ramzan Khan, who taught around 40-50 children, was being paid "Rs 2,000 for taking care of the mosque and Rs 3,000 for his role as a teacher. That made him an easy target," a senior police officer told The Hindu.
As the atmosphere of mistrust among the two nations continued to prevail, India and Pakistan yesterday each declared a staffer at their High Commissions in New Delhi and Islamabad 'persona non-grata' and sought their recall, PTI reported.
Pakistani Mehmood Akhtar, who has diplomatic immunity, was procuring details including those about deployment of BSF personnel along the Indo-Pak border from two accomplices who were arrested.
Akhtar, 35, belonged to the Baloch regiment of Pakistani Army and was on deputation for spy agency ISI since 2013, according to the police.
The second man to be arrested, 37-year-old Subhash Jangir, is a grocer whose business had failed. He was struggling to make a living.
"Jangir was under heavy debt and Khan being aware of his financial condition saw him as a soft target," Ravindra Yadav, the Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime), told the Hindu.
If the communication was verbal and of use to Akhtar, he allegedly paid them anything between Rs 15,000 and Rs 20,000. Police sources told the Hindustan Times that the three never exchanged communication through email or WhatsApp.
The Maulana was under police observation for over a month.
"He was also in touch with former BSF personnel, one of them being his distant relative. He would visit the base as a maulana and befriend people. It is still unclear if he paid money to the personnel in exchange of information," a police source told HT.
The Jama Masjid or Purana Qila in the capital used to be meeting points for the men.
Jangir and Ramzan were picked up from Delhi Zoo yesterday at around 10 AM. Akhtar was released after around three hours of interrogation. A fourth person Shoaib, who is a Jodhpur-based passport and visa agent, was detained by Rajasthan police and brought to Delhi.
India has asked Akhtar to leave the country within 48 hours.
"Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar summoned the Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit and informed him that India had intercepted an official of the Pak High Commission in the pursuit of espionage and that he was being declared persona non-grata," Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Vikas Swarup said.
"The Pakistan High Commission has been informed that Mehmood Akhtar and his family must return to Pakistan by 29 October. The Foreign Secretary also strongly conveyed to the Pak High Commissioner that the Pak High Commission must ensure that none of its members indulge in activities inimical to India, or behave in a manner that is incompatible with their diplomatic status," Swarup said.
In swift tit-for-tat action, Pakistan also declared an Indian High Commission official as persona non-grata and asked him to leave the country within 48 hours.
"The Foreign Secretary (Aizaz Chaudhry) summoned the Indian High Commissioner today and conveyed the decision of the Government of Pakistan to declare Surjeet Singh, an official of the Indian High Commission, as persona non-grata," the statement said.
The Foreign Secretary expressed deep concern over the activities of the Indian official that were in violation of the Vienna Convention and the established diplomatic norms, it said.
The Indian High Commission has been asked to make urgent necessary arrangements for Singh and his family to leave Pakistan by 29 October.
(With PTI inputs)