Indian intelligence bugged the then British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s bedroom at a hotel during his official visit to New Delhi in 2001, one month after 9/11 attacks, his chief spin doctor Alastair Campbell revealed in his book The Blair Years: The Alastair Campbell Diaries.
On his way to the hotel, Blair asked the then British high commissioner in Delhi if the car was bugged, only to receive a “kind of noncommittal no”. Later, he describes the embarrassing and deeply incriminating discovery of two bugs in the British prime minister’s hotel room. Campbell claimed Blair had decided to use a different room at the hotel after British security service sleuths detected the bugs. Blair was not staying at the Rashtrapati Bhavan during this trip. Campbell also claims in the diaries that he too was probably spied upon by Indian intelligence, via the services of a “valet” named Sunil.
The incident took place at the beginning of a couple of days of shuttle diplomacy between Pakistan and India after the events of September 11. The report, first published as a news blog on the website of London’s Guardian newspaper, had been vehemently denied by both the BJP and the Union Government.
Below is the account of Alastair Campbell, the then Director of Communications and Tony Blair’s spokesman as published in his book The Blair Years: The Alastair Campbell Diaries.
Friday, October 5, 2001 – Trips to Pakistan & India
TB (Tony Blair) was up late and we set off immediately for the airport. He was trying to work out what outcomes we wanted from Pakistan. I felt there was a danger now that the British public started to ask what is this all about, and why is he spending all his time on the needs of other countries not our own? TB’s words in Pakistan were going to be important and we took a bit of time to work on that. They seemed to have shut down pretty much every road and the crowds were also kept well away. It was about as big a security operation as we’d had.
They started off one-on-one. TB reckoned him [Musharraf] to be a very tough character. I think their basic feeling was that we wipe out the Taliban leadership, felt that if we did the whole show would crumble. They seemed pretty keen to get OBL (Osama Bin Laden), but you could never be absolutely sure who was saying what for what reason. He told TB we shouldn’t underestimate how unpopular the Americans are here. He said Mullah Omar was impossible to talk to because he is a mystic, constantly talking about the afterlife. At dinner I was between two five-star generals who spent most of the time listing atrocities for which they held the Indians responsible, killing their own people and trying to blame ‘freedom fighters’.
We arranged it so that we had an early dinner there and then flew to Delhi but I sensed they were holding us back as long as possible. As we took off, there was a lot of black humour flowing around about the prospect of us being downed by a stinger [a portable homing surface-to-air missle]. I think all of us, other than the experts, had been a bit taken aback at just how much Kashmir defined their relations and just how deep the mutual hatred and obsession was.
We arrived in Delhi and drove into town. TB motioned to the ambassador, asking if the car was bugged. He gave a kind of non-committal no. Then at the hotel, our security service guys had found two bugs in TB’s bedroom and said they wouldn’t be able to move them without drilling the wall, so TB used a different room. We decided against making a fuss. I was given my own valet, Sunil, who just would not leave me alone. He followed me to the gym and I literally had to tell him to disappear. He was waiting at my door when I got back.
Saturday, October 6 2001
I told him at one point I was a tea-aholic, and he kept making me tea after tea and bringing it in. When I came back from the gym, by the time I got out of the shower, my running gear had been picked up and folded. Sunil was driving me bananas. Everywhere I went, he was there. I was beginning to wonder whether he had been put there either by the spooks or a paper.