Visakhapatnam: The arrest of seven personnel of the Indian Navy over an alleged espionage racket may have brought Vizag of Andhra Pradesh in the spotlight, but the coastal city is not new to spying.

Vizag has the headquarters of the Eastern Naval Command of the Indian Navy. In 2001, four naval personnel and the then chief security officer of the Naval Armament Depot (NAD) were arrested for alleged spying.

Navy sources said two of the four men had passed on microfilms containing pictures of the naval command, including the dockyard and shipbuilding centres, to Pakistani ISI agents in Nepal. During the trial, Raj Kumar Singh, the chief security officer of NAD, hanged himself at the Visakhapatnam Central Jail. The others were given various terms of imprisonment.

The city assumed importance for the Navy after Pakistan’s submarine PNS Ghazi was sunk few kilometres off the Vizag Coast during the 1971 war with Pakistan. This event ended the war. Later, Vizag became the headquarters for Navy’s submarine wing. It also houses two nuclear submarines – INS Chakra and indigenously built INS Arihant.

The latest arrests of the seven naval personnel, who were allegedly honey-trapped by the ISI, were carried out under a covert plan codenamed Operation Dolphin’s Nose. A hill resembling a dolphin’s nose sits adjacent to the Eastern Naval Command. Dolphin’s Nose has the residential complexes and offices of the Indian Navy.

Falling prey to a Facebook honeytrap set up by four women, the sailors allegedly leaked sensitive information about the locations of Indian naval ships and submarines to a Pakistani handler. Following their arrest, the Andhra Pradesh Intelligence Department on Friday claimed to have busted an espionage racket in the Navy.

Central Intelligence officials were also seen camping at their Vizag branch, though they declined to speak about the case. Citing the name of the operation, police sources said the spying activities were perhaps being conducted from Vizag itself.

Among the arrested sailors, three are from Vizag, two from the Karwar naval base, and two from the Mumbai naval base.

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