Highly-placed sources said that with secret documents produced by whistle blower Edward Snowden revealing the alleged snooping, the government is likely to either summon the US envoy here or register a “strong protest” in Washington through ambassador S Jaishankar.
According to a Washington Post report, based on documents leaked by Snowden, BJP figures in the list of non-US political parties along with Lebanon’s Amal, which has links with Hezbollah, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and the Pakistan Peoples Party which were spied on by the NSA after an official authorization by the US government.
The government was initially guarded in its reaction to the disclosure that NSA had been authorised by the US government to spy on BJP, merely noting that any transgression — if the reports were correct — of individual privacy would be totally unacceptable.
But the government seemed to have realised later in the day — after it was convinced of the authenticity of the report first published in The Washington Post — that the matter couldn’t be glossed over given its political ramifications.
While the government had the option of taking up the issue with secretary of state John Kerry, who is expected to visit India soon, sources said the matter demanded urgent action in the form of strong public disapproval.
BJP general secretary Rajiv Rudy said the allegation must be investigated and called on the external affairs ministry to respond appropriately. Information and broadcasting minister Prakash Javadekar said, “… we will take up the issue after we cross check facts.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has had an uneasy relationship with the US, owing mainly to the decision by Washington to revoke his visa in 2005.
While Modi chose to ignore this after he became PM — even declaring that relations between the two countries couldn’t even remotely be influenced by incidents related to individuals — and accepted President Obama’s invitation for a bilateral meeting, the Snowden disclosure can put him in an awkward position and pose hurdles to his US outreach.
It was revealed last year that the Indian embassy in Washington was among those missions to be spied on by the US authorities. It was also discovered that India, in fact, was the 5th-most-tracked countries by US agencies which used a secret data-mining programme to monitor worldwide internet data. Then foreign minister Salman Khurshid though chose to defend the US saying that “it was not actually snooping”.
“Some of the information they (the US) got out of their scrutiny, they were able to use it to prevent serious terrorist attacks in several countries,” Khurshid had said.
Speaking on the Post report earlier in the day, foreign ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin had said, “Our view is pretty clear that it is extremely disconcerting that privacy laws in India are undermined whether it is individuals or organizations.”