We fail to understand the big hoo-hah in India about the gobarment there using the Israeli-designed Pegasus software to infect the WhatsApp of opposition leaders, activists, journalists and even Delhi-based ambassadors, including our very own plenipotentiary extraordinaire at Barakhamba Road.
Don’t know why they even bothered. Indian spooks thought they could extract inside information on Nepal’s multi-pronged strategy to reclaim Limpiyadhura by penetrating Nilamberji’s phone with zero-click malware.
Instead, all they would have eavesdropped on would be top secret conversations about arranging appointments at Apollo Hospital for a former prime minister, or requests for college scholarships from folks back in Kathmandu.
They also would not have found any conversation on vaccine diplomacy because if our envoy was working on a deal, Nepalis would have by now got the 1 million Covishield doses we already paid for.
The semi-intelligent folks in the intelligence community did not really need Pegasus to snoop on the intelligentsia. Spying physically on political opponents has been honed into a fine art here, and being known as a secret agent has prestige and status in society.
In fact, when a Nepali tabloid once exposed a list of secret agents of foreign intelligence agencies like the CIA, KGB, Mossad, Raw, Medium Rare and Well-done, there were some senior government figures who felt insulted because their names were not on it.
The point is that they didn’t really need to plant spyware on smartphones, they could have relied on human sleuths. During the Panchayat, the regime deployed spies everywhere. They planted spies to spy on their own spies.
There were even assets deployed at the Central Zoo in Jawalakhel to check if any of the inmates in the Large Mammals enclosure were anti-national elements plotting to overthrow the monarchy. Little did they know that the moles were double agents.
Still, the Pegasus scandal should send a chill down every ultra-nationalistic spine and give all patriots goose pimples. We just cannot let our guards down in this age of electronic cloak-and-dagger stuff.
We wouldn’t go as far as to say that our counter-espionage systems have to be beefed up, since that would ruffle religious sensibilities in some quarters, but there is no doubt that they need to be buffed up.
And I would not be revealing any state secrets if I told you that all three arms of the government are wide open for surveillance by foreign and domestic secret agents.
The Nepali landmass is being constantly monitored by low-orbit satellites, and VIPs should therefore be careful about reading top-secret files with their windows open. They should also wear N95 masks at all times to disguise themselves.
The PMO in Singha Darbar is bugged. So the Council of Ministers should refrain from discussing anything of national importance at cabinet meetings. They should also not discuss any state secrets at home since there may be bed bugs.
And any fifth columnist trying to bug the Ass’ not-so-smart phone beware: I’ll plant a butt call.