Honey Trapped By ISI— India’s Top Scientist Leaked Military Secrets??

Dr Pradeep Kurulkar was the head and director of DRDO’s prestigious laboratory— Research & Development Establishment (Engineers) in Dighi, Pune. He was suspended by DRDO(see profile) two days after his arrest on May 3rd. Before I tell you a twist in his story, let me first explain in detail what DRDO mentioned about his profile. Mere glance at his profile will shock you with awe how big was the catch in honey trap for Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI.

Born in 1963, Pradeep Kurulkar joined DRDO at CVRDE, Avadi, in 1988 after completing his Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from COEP Pune in 1985 in first class with Distinction. He further completed his advanced courses in Power Electronics from IIT Kanpur with specialization in Drives and application. His area of specialization is the Design and Development of Missile Launchers, Military Engineering Equipment, Advanced Robotics and Mobile Unmanned Systems for Military Applications. This is his profile listed by DRDO.

As Project Leader and System Manager for Akash Ground Systems, he has been a key member of Akash team and has played a major role in the design, development and production of Akash Launchers and mission-critical Ground Systems. His efforts have been resulted in the release of production orders to the tune of 1000 crores for the Akash Launchers and other Ground Systems. As a Project Director SF, Agni Project, he steared design and development of Road & Rail versions of Launchers & Ground systems. He has played key role in it’s development with users and these efforts have resulted in release of production to orders to the tune of 250 crores for Agni project.

Kurulkar, as a Team Leader and Lead Designer, has played a major and pioneering role in the successful design, development and delivery of a number of Military Engineering Systems and Equipment including Missile Launchers for Programme AD, MRSAM, Nirbhay Subsonic Cruise Missile System, Prahar, QRSAM, XRSAM, Hyperbaric Chamber and Mobile Power Supply and High Pressure Pneumatic Systems. On March 27, 2019 DRDO successfully conducted Mission Shakti, an anti-satellite missile test. The critical subsystem of this mission was the design and development of a ballistic missile Launcher from concept to a deployable prototype. The Launcher was developed in a very short time of three months under the able guidance and leadership of PM Kurulkar, whose innovative execution and management techniques not only made the system ready in advance but also brought laurels to R & DE (Engrs), Pune.

Pradeep Kurulkar has also pioneered the successful development and implementation of Electro-mechanical Servo Drive Technology for high performance military applications. Besides these, he has also successfully developed advanced products such as Autonomous Unmanned Ground Vehicles, Intelligent Robotic equipment for Military applications.

PM Kurulkar has launched a series of new technological initiatives in the emerging technology areas – High-Performance High Power Servo Drive Technology, Platform Stabilization Technology, AFPM based Alternator Technology, VSCF based Power Source Technology, Electric Propulsion Technology, Missile Canister Technology, Autonomous Navigation Technology for small UGVs, Intelligent Robotic Manipulators for hazardous military applications and Linear Electric Motor Technology.

He has provided effective Leadership, Management, Technical Guidance and Direction to the Scientists and Technologists. Kurulkar has a futuristic vision to make the country self-reliant in the critical areas of advanced missile launchers and specialized military engineering and robotics systems. He has plans to develop dual use, multi-purpose products and technologies with enhanced civilian application of DRDO products and technologies. He also wants to aggressively pursue export of successful DRDO developed products, equipment and technologies to friendly foreign countries.

PM Kurulkar is a recipient of the Science Day Award for Best Publication in 2000, the DRDO Agni Award for Excellence in Self-Reliance in 2002, the DRDO Award for Path-breaking Research/Outstanding Technology development in 2008 for AKASH and the DRDO Award for Performance Excellence for MRSAM in 2016 and the Award for Excellence of Technology by DEMA in 2016.

He is a fellow of the Institution of Engineers (India), Life Member of Indian National Society for Aerospace and Related Mechanisms (INSARM), Member of Fluid Power Society of India (FPSI), and Robotics Society of India. Also he is a Life Member of Institute of Smart Structures and Systems (ISSS). So this is his scientific profile. At such as reputable position, he would have not only travelled at sensitive places, had access to top defence and military so if he actually leaked secrets than damage must extraordinarily be big.  It is still not sure, if he is the only one fallen pray to honey trap or there was a larger spy ring. But interestingly today Congress brought out his another profile— political profile to attack ruling BJP and congress. 

Congress on Wednesday alleged that DRDO official Pradeep Kurulkar, arrested on charges of providing confidential information to a Pakistani agent, was an “active RSS volunteer”. The Congress’ attack came a day after a special court in Pune extended till May 15 the police custody of Kurulkar after observing that the charges against him were serious and custodial interrogation of the accused for a further period is unavoidable for a thorough probe.

Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera said the arrest of Kurulkar is a “very serious matter” and alleged that it exposes the “anti-national face” of the RSS.

 Hindustan Times in a report quoted Pradeep Kurulkar’s acquaintances saying the 59-year-old is a regular family man while a senior leader of the RSS, which Kurulkar has been associated with since age 5, says he was always “dutiful”.

According to media reports about six months ago, the vigilance team at the DRDO in Pune where Kurulkar played a key role in the design, development and production of Akash launchers and mission-critical ground systems defence projects, started tracking his movements and communication. They suspected their star scientist was in touch with a Pakistani Intelligence Operative in what they told the Maharashtra ATS seemed like a case of “honey trap”.

Media reported that After the DRDO complaint, a team of Maharashtra ATS began tracking Kurulkar and found that he was in touch with a female Pakistani Intelligence Operative through audio and video messages over Whatsapp. ATS also claim the scientist has allegedly shared sensitive security and defence related information with her. The agency believes that Kurulkar first came in contact with the female PIO in September 2022 and continued to remain in touch with her for six months before blocking her number.

A top source in India’s intelligence community told your channel National Defence on condition of anonymity that it should also be investigated if Kurulkar who is just six months short of retirement and potentially under consideration for advisor’s position by Government of India post retirement, was deliberately targeted by his adversary. The source pointed out a person accused of spying should be considered innocent until proven guilty by court of law. It is also interesting to look back what happened in case of Sambha Spy case, Nambi Narayanan spy scandal and Purohit’s case. By the time, accused of espionage pronounced innocent, it is too late; moreover, nothing is ever done against persons who level false accusation and innocent has to languish in jail for years.

In case of Pradeep Kurulkar, Maharasthra ATS is investigating the case, however, it is not a terror case. And if it is a terror case, then should it not be handed over to National Investigating Agency, the NIA that handles all terror cases. Now when Additional Session Judge (a special court) in Pune has remanded the accused Dr Pradeep Kurulkar to further custody till 15th May as ATS team has said that they needed time to examine the forensic evidence, including a pen drive seized at the time of Kurulkar’s arrest. According to ATS, the scientist blocked the Pakistani Intelligence Officer after initial communication with her but then she got in touch with him again using another number. And sources say that number was Indian number. He was also in touch with the PIO on Gmail and the IP address of the recipient has been traced to Pakistan. “A message from the PIO asking him why he had blocked her was recorded on the mobile phone which has been seized by ATS. A source in intelligence told me that Pakistani agency has earlier been using Pakistan number starting with country code +92 but now they have changed their strategy and using +91 Indian code number. Sources say counter Intelligence officers when they get tip off about a possible spy network, they do their own drill. It may be possible that after receiving the tip off about a potential honey trap of Dr Pradeep Kurulkar, Indian Counter Intelligence Agents were doing what needed to be done. If that is the case, it should be interesting to know if Dr. Pradeep Kurulkar actually leaked any sensitive information to the enemy state agent. And if yes what is the level of damage done by him.  

Media reported that in her submission in court, Investigating officer said that in the course of his work, Kurulkar met a number of women at the DRDO guest house and they believe that one of them was possibly the PIO. The ATS is also investigating all his foreign travel in the last few years. “His bank accounts are also to be checked whether he received any money that he can’t explain,”. Before his arrest, Kurulkar allegedly deleted data from his mobile phone, laptop and pen drive. The ATS said they needed to ascertain what that data was and whether it had been shared with others.

By the time, I rolled out the this story, I have not received a response from DRDO and Ministry of Defence. ATS inspector Sujata Tanawade was out of reach on phone as she was busy carrying the investigation. The investigators should tread the case of Dr. Pradeep Kurulkar cautiously as it involves India’s top level security. Meanwhile, every single person holding any sensitive information should be sensitized and if need be sanitized to get in harms way. Honey trap is the old tactics of Pakistan’s failed agency ISI. And old habits die hard. Thanks for watching National Defence. JaiHind. Vandematram.

This article was published in nationaldefence.in

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