United States hopes BJP snooping row would not hurt ties with India

Washington, Jul 3: Amid a row over reports that the US National Security Agency was authorised to spy on Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 2010, the US hopes it would not impact ties with India.

“Well, we certainly hope not,” State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters Wednesday when asked if the incident would impact US ties with India as the new Prime Minister Narendra Modi belongs to BJP.

“As you know, there’s been an invitation issued for a visit, and we’re looking forward to that, hopefully in the fall,” she said referring to President Barack Obama invitation to Modi to visit the US. ”We look forward to continuing discussion on a full range of bilateral and regional issues,” Psaki said.

Citing documents leaked by former NSA contractor turned whistleblower Edward Snowden, the Washington Post on Tuesday reported that the BJP was among six political organizations across the world NSA was authorized to spy on by a US surveillance court.

Psaki, however, declined to “comment publicly on every specific alleged intelligence activity”.

She also cited a Jan 17 speech in which Obama had “made clear that he’s instructed his national security team as well as the intelligence community to work with foreign counterparts to deepen our coordination and cooperation in ways that rebuild trust moving forward”.

Psaki said diplomats from the US embassy in New Delhi had met with their counterparts in the external affairs Ministry “on this issue, but I’m not going to get into the substance of our private conversations”.

Asked if BJP had been taken off the list since it had now become the ruling party, she said: “I’m just not going to have any more details I can lay out for you, other than to convey that we have a deep and broad partnership with India.”

“We will discuss any concerns that are we need to discuss through our private diplomatic channels. And obviously, that is already ongoing, including as it relates to these specific reports,” she said.

Asked what was the need for such surveillance since US diplomats have had regular meetings with the BJP leaders, Psaki parried: “I think we’ve spoken to this extensively as it relates to reports from around the world.

“I would point you to the President’s speeches and remarks on this issue and steps we’ve taken to change our policies. And beyond that, I’m not going to have a further comment on these reports,” she added.

Psaki also declined to say whether US had given any assurance to India that such snooping will be not be done in the future. ”I’m just not going to have anything else to read out. There’ll be continuation of private diplomatic conversations, and I’m not going to read out those out publicly.”

The spokesperson said she was “not aware of plans at this point of Secretary of State John Kerry or Deputy Secretary Bill Burns “to travel in the coming weeks to India. But we look forward to going at some point.”