News / Asia

India Seeks US Assurances Over Spying Reports

FILE - India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
FILE - India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

India summoned a senior U.S. diplomat on Wednesday to explain reports that the U.S. National Security Agency was authorized to spy on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's party before he took office, and to seek assurances this would not happen in the 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 organizations 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 People’s Party, the leaked legal certification approved by U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court showed.

India's 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 authorizations 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 defense 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. Party 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 and Raytheon's most important defense businesses.

McCain, who told the Senate last week that Washington should seek to help India's economic and military development, canceled 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 India's Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj discussed improving bilateral relations and 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.

You May Like

Nearly Every Job in America Mapped in Detail

A nifty map pinpoints practically every job in the United States, revealing the economic character of America’s metropolitan areas, which also helps to inform the local culture

Corruption Busting Is Her Game

South African activist is building 'international online community of thousands of corruption fighters'

Former SAF Businessman Gives Books, Love of Reading to Students

Steve Tsakaris now involved in nonprofit Read to Rise, which distributes books in Soweto, encourages lower-grade primary school students to read

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs