India may once again express its diplomatic annoyance with the U.S. following revelations that the National Security Agency (NSA) had spied on its London mission.
Government sources here said the subject was mentioned during a meeting between a high-level official and U.S. Ambassador Nancy Powell following reports a fortnight ago about India being the fifth most tracked country by the NSA.
India could be expected to follow a similar pattern but diplomats with decades of service behind them were not surprised. A former diplomat pointed out that “no one is spared [from snooping]” and “if the U.S. is doing it, then it would indicate India has information relevant to its interests.”
From the day a diplomat is inducted into the service, he is told to live with the possibility of his every means of communication being subject to interception and listening. Diplomats posted abroad are so sure of being under watch that they convey signals to their host country on an issue by discussing it with their headquarters on open phone lines, said another former diplomat.
News reports in Europe spoke of chances of tensions in European Union-U.S. ties, but the Foreign Office here took in its stride the report by the U.K.-published The Guardian. The newspaper said France, Italy, South Korea, Japan and India were among 38 NSA targets in Europe along with ideological enemies and Arab states.
Former diplomats here felt the Indian High Commission in London was a legitimate target because it not only dealt with the local government but also had stakes in the huge Indian diaspora in the U.K. and nearby.
Snooping by the U.S. was very extensive, said a diplomat who had served in London, because “as the only global power, it has created more enemies than it should have. There are al-Qaeda cells everywhere. Therefore, it has to watch more.”
According to retired diplomat G. Parthasarathy, several diplomats from the U.S. and the former Soviet Union were quietly expelled from New Delhi for espionage. Therefore, it was hardly surprising that an Indian mission on foreign soil was under watch.
Dismissing simulation of outrage over the exposure of American electronic taps in such great deal by whistle-blower Edward Snowden, another former diplomat said, “Ask yourself whether you [India] monitor diplomatic communications? And if not, why not? This part of statecraft, as old as diplomacy itself, entails keeping a watch on not just the enemies.”