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Australia expelled two Indian spies in 2020 for allegedly trying to “steal secrets” about sensitive defence projects and airport security, the Australian media reported on Tuesday. While The Australian and The Sydney Morning Herald said two Indian spies were booted out, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) did not mention any number.

There was no immediate comment from Indian officials on the Australian media reports. “Indian spies were kicked out of Australia after being caught trying to steal secrets about sensitive defence projects and airport security, as well as classified information on Australia’s trade relationships,” the ABC report said.

The so-called foreign “nest of spies” disrupted by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) in 2020 was also accused of closely monitoring Indians living in Australia and developing close relationships with current and former politicians, it said.

The reports came a day after The Washington Post named an Indian RAW official for allegedly plotting to assassinate Sikh extremist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun on American soil last year.

India on Tuesday said The Washington Post report made “unwarranted and unsubstantiated” imputations on a serious matter.

The Washington Post report also said that two RAW (Research and Analysis Wing) officers were expelled from Australia in 2020.

The ABC said ASIO Director-General Mike Burgess first alluded to the spy ring in his annual threat assessment delivered in 2021, but he did not disclose which country was behind the activity.

“The spies developed targeted relationships with current and former politicians, a foreign embassy and a state police service,” the report quoted Burgess as saying during his March 2021 speech inside ASIO’s Canberra headquarters.

“They monitored their country’s diaspora community. They tried to obtain classified information about Australia’s trade relationships,” he said.

Burgess also detailed how the “nest of spies” had successfully cultivated and recruited an Australian government security clearance holder who had access to “sensitive details of defence technology”, the ABC report said.