The closest advisers of the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, have been found on the list of potential surveillance targets with the Israeli spyware Pegasus that is only sold to governments, news website The Wire reported on Thursday.
Phone numbers of staff of other Buddhist clerics, several Tibetan officials and activists were also found on a leaked database that showed they had been marked for being monitored from late 2017 to early 2019, the publication said.
The inclusion of their phone numbers, however, may not mean that they have been infected by Pegasus, as that can only be confirmed through forensic analysis of the device, it added.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, political strategist Prashant Kishor, Union Ministers and dozens of journalists were found on the list of targets earlier this week in the scandal that has been dubbed "bigger than Watergate" by the opposition and strenuously dismissed by the government.
According to The Wire, the first records of surveillance on those around the Dalai Lama relate to the staff of the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, Urgyen Trinley Dorji, the third highest-ranking monk in Tibetan Buddhism, who had been living outside India since early 2017.
The Karmapa, who fled to India in 2000 as a teenager, has had a testy relationship with the Indian intelligence community; In March 2018, he obtained a Dominican passport, unbeknownst to India, the news website reported.
The Dalai Lama's long-term envoy in New Delhi, Tempa Tsering, who is currently the director, India and East Asia, Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in New Delhi, also appears on the list, it said.
During the period when the phones were selected for surveillance, the Dalai Lama had met with former US President Barack Obama in Delhi and India's relationship with China was just recovering following the Doklam crisis.
"Other names in the database are of senior aides Tenzin Taklha and Chimmey Rigzen. The head of the trust that will oversee the delicate task of selecting the next Dalai Lama, Samdhong Rinpoche, was also inserted in the list in mid-2018," The Wire reported.
The records also include the phone numbers of the head of the then Tibetan government in exile, Lobsang Sangay, and several other Tibetan activists in India, it said.
The Wire is among 17 media organisations that are publishing the investigation that says Pegasus had been used in attempted or successful hacks of smartphones using malware that enables the extraction of messages, records calls and secretly activates microphones.
The maker of the spyware NSO, which has said it sells its spyware to only "vetted governments", has rejected the reports as "full of wrong assumptions and uncorroborated theories". NDTV has not independently verified the reporting.