India seeks assurances from U.S. over spying reports

NEW DELHI Thu Jul 3, 2014 1:59am IST

U.S. Senator John McCain waves to members of the media after his meeting with Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj in New Delhi July 2, 2014.  REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

U.S. Senator John McCain waves to members of the media after his meeting with Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj in New Delhi July 2, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Adnan Abidi

Related Topics

Stocks

   

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India summoned a senior U.S. diplomat on Wednesday to explain reports that the U.S. National Security Agency was authorised to spy on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's party before he took office, and to seek assurances this would not happen in future.

The U.S. State Department said it would not comment "on every specific alleged intelligence activity," but a spokeswoman said she hoped that relations with the new Indian government, which Washington is keen to develop, would not be harmed.

According to a 2010 classified document leaked by former U.S. security contractor Edward Snowden and published this week by the Washington Post, Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was among a handful of political organisations a U.S. court allowed the intelligence agency to spy on.

The others included Lebanon's Hezbollah-allied group Amal, Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, and the Pakistan Peoples Party, the leaked legal certification approved by U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court showed.

Foreign ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said that if the snooping reports were true, it would be "highly objectionable". The ministry said it summoned a senior U.S. diplomat to seek assurances that any such surveillance would not occur in future.

"India has sought an explanation of the information contained in the press reports, and an assurance that such authorisations will not be acted upon by U.S. government entities," it said in a statement.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki declined to give details of what she called a "private" discussion.

"We have a deep and broad partnership with India," she told a regular news briefing. "We will discuss any concerns we need to discuss though private diplomatic channels."

Asked if the issue could have an impact on relations, she said: "We certainly hope not. We look forward to continuing discussions on a full range of bilateral and regional issues."

OBAMA'S INVITATION

Psaki referred to an invitation by President Barack Obama for Modi to visit the United States and added: "We're looking forward to that, hopefully, in the fall."

Psaki also cited a Jan. 17 speech in which Obama said he was banning eavesdropping on the leaders of close friends and allies and had instructed U.S. intelligence agencies "to work with foreign counterparts to deepen our coordination and cooperation in ways that rebuild trust."

The latest affair comes at a tricky time for Indo-U.S. relations, which have been delicate for months following a major spat over the treatment of an Indian diplomat who was arrested in New York in December, an incident that was widely blamed for the resignation of the U.S. ambassador to New Delhi.

The Obama administration has been seeking to revive ties since Modi's election in May, seeing India as a key strategic counter-balance in Asia to an increasingly assertive China. It is keen to ramp up bilateral trade and especially defence deals.

Modi was for years denied a visa for travel to the United States following religious riots in 2002 while he was a state chief minister. Even so, he has responded positively to the U.S. advances and shown no resentment publicly.

Modi has not publicly commented on the spying allegation. BJP leaders offered cautious remarks that the government would take appropriate action.

The foreign ministry had voiced concerns a year ago about allegations that U.S. agencies spied on the Indian embassy in Washington, but critics say the issue has largely been brushed under the carpet.

The new row has overshadowed a visit to India by Republican U.S. Senator John McCain, whose Arizona constituency is host to some of Boeing BA.N and Raytheon's RTN.N most important defence businesses.

McCain, who told the Senate last week that Washington should seek to help India's economic and military development, cancelled a news conference due to be held outside India's foreign ministry after India summoned the U.S. diplomat to explain the spying report.

U.S. and Indian officials gave differing explanations for the cancellation, but said it was not linked to the row.

McCain and Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj discussed taking forward bilateral relations, the situation in Afghanistan and Iraq, foreign ministry spokesman Akbaruddin said.

The United States does not currently have an ambassador in New Delhi and its most senior diplomat is the charge d'affaires.

According to Indian news reports, however, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to visit India at the end of this month, while Modi is expected to visit the United States in September.

(Additional reporting and writing by Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Ron Popeski)

FILED UNDER:
Photo

After wave of QE, onus shifts to leaders to boost economy

DAVOS, Switzerland - Central banks have done their best to rescue the world economy by printing money and politicians must now act fast to enact structural reforms and pro-investment policies to boost growth, central bankers said on Saturday.

Obama's India Visit

Reuters Showcase

RK Laxman Dead

RK Laxman Dead

'Common Man' cartoonist RK Laxman dead at 93  Full Article 

Nuclear Group

Nuclear Group

China urges India to take steps to satisfy standards of NSG  Full Article 

India’s Male Tenor

India’s Male Tenor

India’s lone male tenor wants to ‘Indianise’ opera  Full Article 

Facebook Outage

Facebook Outage

Hacker group claims it is behind outages at Facebook, other sites  Full Article 

U.S. Blizzard

U.S. Blizzard

`Life-threatening' blizzard shuts down much of U.S. Northeast  Full Article 

Australian Open

Australian Open

Berdych ends Nadal tyranny on day of shocks  Full Article 

Fashionable Modi

Fashionable Modi

When Modi met Obama, his name was all over - his suit  Full Article 

Photo

Auschwitz Anniversary

Last survivors recall Auschwitz, ask if lessons learned  Full Article | Related Story 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device  Full Coverage