• Recently, Central govt has told the Karnataka High Court that it will look into the matter of ‘Havana Syndrome’ in India, in response to a Bengaluru resident’s recent petition.


  • Havana Syndrome refers to a set of mental health symptoms that are said to be experienced by United States intelligence and embassy officials in various countries.
  • It is worth noting that in general, the word ‘syndrome’ simply means a set of symptoms.
  • It does not mean a unique medical condition, but rather a set of symptoms that are usually experienced together whose origins may be difficult to confirm.
  • The Havana Syndrome typically involves symptoms such as hearing certain sounds without any outside noise, nausea, vertigo and headaches, memory loss and balance issues.
  • As the name suggests, it traces its roots to Cuba in late 2016.
  • This was about a year after the US opened its embassy in the capital city of Havana after ties between the two countries were normalised in 2015.

  • Some US intelligence officials and members of the staff at the embassy began experiencing sudden bursts of pressure in their brains followed by persistent headaches, feelings of disorientation and insomnia.


  • The causes are not entirely sure.
  • Initially during the Cuban experience, being in a country that had been hostile to the US for over five decades, the suspicion was on Cuban intelligence or a section within the Cuban establishment that did not want US-Cuba relations to normalise. It was then speculated to be a “sonic attack”.
  • However, further study by scientists in the US and medical examination of the victims began to suggest that they may have been subjected to high-powered microwaves that either damaged or interfered with the nervous system.
  • It was said to have built pressure inside the brain that generated the feeling of a sound being heard.
  • Greater exposure to high-powered microwaves is said not only to interfere with the body’s sense of balance but also to impact memory and cause permanent brain damage.
  • Low levels of microwaves are also emitted from mobile phones but they are not targeted.
  • It was suspected that beams of high-powered microwaves were sent through a special gadget that Americans then called a “microwave weapon”.
  • The use of microwaves as a counter-intelligence tactic has been experimented with since the Cold War and both Russia and the US have made attempts to weaponise it.
  • There have been reports of US embassy officials in Moscow experiencing mental health issues due to the suspected use of microwaves in the 1970s.


  • As of July 2023, the 2021 incident was the only reported occurrence of the syndrome in India.
  • Sources in the Indian security establishment said in 2021 that they were not aware of any weapon with such capacities being in the possession of an Indian agency.
  • Even if there was one, it was unlikely the government would admit to having acquired such counter-espionage technology given the sensitive nature of intelligence work.