It is sad that India has not seen it fit to grant asylum to a man who has blown the whistle on a surveillance programme that constitutes a gross violation of the mutual respect nations must extend to each other, and it is even sadder that the Indian public has not remonstrated against this inexcusable indifference on the part of its leadership.
Instead, we sit as mute witnesses not only to the absence of protest, but even of a modicum of publicly expressed indignation by our government.
Sadly, this reflects a leadership paralysis which has become the hallmark of the leaders who currently govern us. This paralysis ought to be a source of considerable embarrassment, if not to the leaders, then certainly to us citizens.
I have just returned from a business-related trip to Athens and Istanbul. I found the Acropolis and the Hagia Sophia so absorbing that unfortunately, I did not pay sufficient attention to the travails of a 29-year-old man who had the gumption not only to inform the American public but all people of the world of a surveillance programme that has invaded the privacy of honest citizens. I wonder how Alexander the Great or Emperor Constantine would have treated Edward Snowden.
It is ironic that asylum to the whistleblower has been granted by a ‘power’ which has always been portrayed by the United States of America and her allies as diabolic and totalitarian. In the July 18 edition of The Hindu, Russian President Vladimir Putin is quoted as saying, “Inter-State relations are far more important than squabbles about the activities of secret services.” Then, taking a dig at Washington's support for human rights in other countries, he is further quoted as saying, “Human rights activity has its downside for those who engage in it.
It can be quite comfortable when pushed under the tutelage of the U.S.”
Meanwhile, let me do the only thing that ordinary citizens like us can do — salute the high school graduate who has forsaken everything to blow the whistle.
He did not blow the whistle on a corporate honcho from an Ivy League institution who heads a corrupt enterprise like Enron, but he did it on a nation which prides itself to be the defender of freedom and was not afraid of going to war — hot and cold — against totalitarianism.
In short, India, which has been so badly wronged by the surveillance on which he has blown the whistle, should treat the whistle blower Snowden as the real hero and applaud him and boldly grant him asylum. Alas, that is not to be.
Instead ,I can do no more than paraphrase the legendary Pete Seeger’s timeless song, “When will we ever learn?”
(Jose Dominic is managing director of CGH Earth. He is the recipient of Special Commendation Award from the Ministry of Tourism, government of India, for the new approaches in resort development the group has ventured into under his stewardship).