Reacting to revelations by former U.S. CIA contractor Edward Snowden that India and the BJP, in particular, were under American surveillance in 2010, both the party and Ministers expressed outrage and said they would take up the matter with the U.S.
The revelations will further test Indo–U.S. relations even as a string of high-profile American visitors are expected in Delhi. On Wednesday, Republican Senator John McCain will meet External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and, next week, Mr. Burns will be accompanied by the Assistant Secretary of State Nisha Biswal. Their visit is seen as a run-up to the visit of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to India for the Strategic Dialogue, and the summit-level meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. President Barack Obama in September in Washington.
It is unclear why the BJP — that was in the opposition in 2010 — was singled out for surveillance in India. Neither are details of what the surveillance revealed amongst the documents delivered by Mr Snowden to the Washington Post . The documents do, however, show the “broad leeway” given to the U.S. NSA under its Foreign Intelligence Survey Act that allows it to intercept e-mails and phone calls of foreign entities.
When Mr. Snowden’s revelations first appeared in June 2013, detailing the screening of more than 6.3 billion pieces of data in India alone, the then-UPA government had a muted response. Former External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid had said: “It isn’t really snooping,” adding that the data collected was non-specific in nature.
When contacted by The Hindu on Wednesday, Mr. Khurshid said, “My statement was on the basis of the conversation I had had on the issue with Mr. John Kerry. The BJP then felt we were being too discreet. Their party is now in power, and since it has been specifically singled out for surveillance, they should take a call, given the new revelations.”
(With additional reporting by Anita Joshua, Smriti Kak Ramachandran and Smita Gupta)