We seem to be mixing up two issues — India’s ‘no’ to Edward Snowden’s plea for political asylum and the U.S. National Security Agency’s surveillance programme. While New Delhi should protest the snooping with all the might at its command, the issue of asylum is not so simple.
Nations take decisions on such issues after weighing the pros and cons, including the material and diplomatic benefits their actions may bring. One should remember the disastrous consequences we had to face after giving asylum to the Dalai Lama. Nations are more pragmatic these days.
India’s foreign policy during the Cold War was as pragmatic as it was principled — something evident from its response to the Soviet invasion of Hungary. Although India could have expressed displeasure over the NSA surveillance, it was right in turning down Mr. Snowden’s request for asylum, considering the geo-political considerations and the larger interest of national security — whether or not we approve.
New Delhi’s ‘no’ to Mr. Snowden’s request for asylum is correct. Any government would have done the same thing. Mr. Snowden has occupied media space for all the wrong reasons. He has embarrassed his country by releasing sensitive information to the world. The countries hostile to the U.S. are using him as a pawn.
Given the ability, many countries will readily resort to measures similar to the NSA’s snooping. In the matter of extending asylum, it is not expedient to neglect the country’s larger interests.