The New York Times on Friday reported that the Indian government bought Israeli spyware Pegasus in 2017 as part of a $2-billion package for weapons including a missile system.

This year-long investigation revealed that the Federal Bureau of Investigation, too, had bought and tested the spyware “for years with plans to use it for domestic surveillance until the agency finally decided last year not to deploy the tools”, the NYT reported.

Also read: India, Philippines to secure $375 million deal for BrahMos supersonic anti-ship missiles

The report details how the spyware was used globally, by Mexico to target journalists and dissidents, and by Saudi Arabia against women’s rights activists and associates of columnist Jamal Khashoggi who was killed by Saudi operatives. The report further states that a set of new deals licensed by the Israeli Ministry of Defence, Pegasus was provided to Poland, Hungary and India, and other countries.

Flagging Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s landmark visit to Israel in July 2017, the newspaper agency reported that the visit came even as “India had maintained a policy” of what it called “commitment to the Palestinian cause,” and “relations with Israel were frosty.”

Also read: Our desire for peace shouldn’t be mistaken: Army Chief General MM Narvane on China standoff

“The Modi visit, however, was notably cordial, complete with a carefully staged moment of him and Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu walking together barefoot on a local beach. They had reason for the warm feelings. Their countries had agreed on the sale of a package of sophisticated weapons and intelligence gear worth roughly $2 billion — with Pegasus and a missile system as the centerpieces.”

Also read: Hypersonic missile tested to modernize weaponry: North Korea

The NYT also mentioned that months later Netanyahu, Israeli Prime Minister at that time, “made a rare state visit to India” and in June 2019 “India voted in support of Israel at the U.N.’s Economic and Social Council to deny observer status to a Palestinian human rights organization, a first for the nation.”

Until now, neither the Indian Government nor the Israeli Government has admitted that India bought Pegasus.

Also read: US President Joe Biden signs law authorising $768.2 billion in defence spending

After around a dozen petitions filed against the alleged snooping by the government, the Supreme Court in October 27 appointed an independent committee headed by retired Justice RV Raveendran, along with two experts.

The three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice NV Ramana had said that the state cannot get “a free pass every time the spectre of ‘national security’ is raised”, as it ordered a “thorough inquiry” into allegations of unauthorised surveillance using Pegasus.