A few weeks ago, Army chief General Bipin Rawat expressed his concern over military personnel using social media, but said that instead of a ban, officers should adhere to certain strict guidelines. These include not using their photos in uniform as profile pictures, exposing their official identity, revealing their rank, unit name and location or anything related to their work, accepting friend requests from unknown users, and even clicking on ads offering alluring prizes.
The chief, who personally does not own a cellphone and admitted to giving out random numbers to people who ask for his mobile number, asserted that “social media is here to stay. Soldiers will use social media. Our adversary will use social media for psychological warfare ... We must leverage it to our advantage.” His remarks came months after a senior Army officer, and subsequently a BSF jawan, were arrested for sharing classified information with ISI agents masquerading as attractive women on Facebook.
It was the questioning of the jawan that led to the arrest on Monday of Nishant Aggarwal, a young engineer working for BrahMos Aerospace Pvt. Ltd. in Nagpur, for leaking classified details about the nuclear-capable BrahMos cruise missile to a Pakistani ‘woman’ in the US. Sensitive documents were found on his personal laptop, in clear violation of the nation’s official secrets laws. Agarwal reportedly used to share these secrets with his ISI handlers through a ‘coded game’.
BrahMos, a nuclear capable cruise missile jointly developed by India and Russia which can be fired from ships, submarines, planes and land, helped complete India’s triad capabilities. Aggarwal’s arrest obviously sparked unease in Russia, which had earlier expressed concerns that India was giving Americans access to sophisticated Russian weapons platforms used by Indian forces. But despite all these incidents, the Army chief was right. Banning social media is not a solution. Because spies will always find another way.