The Washington Post has put out new documents showing that the National Security Agency of the US spied on close to 193 countries and organisations across the world, including India whose current ruling party, the BJP, was on the list of organisations/political parties that were spied upon. The documents are part of the revelations made by former NSA spy-turned-whistleblower Edward Snowden. This is not the first report to highlight that India was on the list of nations spied upon by the US agency. Last year a Guardian report based on Snowden’s disclosures said that India was the fifth most spied country by the NSA on the list with 6.3 billion reports on it.
Despite these reports, the then UPA government—that has been replaced by the BJP-led NDA government after recent Lok Sabha elections—downplayed the implications of US spying in India. The then external affairs minister didn’t think that New Delhi should raise the issue “to such a high level that it becomes a matter of serious question”. In a welcome departure from the UPA’s attitude, the Modi government seems to have taken the issue more seriously. It summoned a senior US diplomat on Wednesday to strongly communicate that it was “totally unacceptable” that the US authorities should transgress upon the privacy of an Indian organisation or individual.
India should lodge a strong protest with the US against such activities at the highest level and seek clear assurances that this will not be repeated. The US cannot unilaterally assume the responsibility of global policing and violating human rights. If it thinks that such surveillance is necessary to fight terrorism, it must take the Indian government into confidence. And it should allow the Indian and other governments to snoop on US-based terror links. Prime minister Modi must make it clear to US president Barrack Obama that the US must treat India as an equal partner in the global campaign against terrorism and the relations between the two countries must be based on mutual trust and reciprocity.