The world may not be big enough for Edward Snowden. Not only did India and two other countries reject whistleblower’s request for asylum on Tuesday, India’s external affairs minister even defended the secret US surveillance programme, made public by Snowden, saying, “it is not actually snooping”.
“It is only computer analysis of patterns of calls and emails that are being sent. It is not actually snooping on specific content of anybody’s message or conversation,” Khurshid told reporters in Brunei where he is attending ASEAN meetings. “Some of the information they (the US) got out of their scrutiny, they were able to use it to prevent serious terrorist attacks in several countries.”
Khurshid’s remarks are in contrast with that of the ministry, which had initially termed as “unacceptable” any privacy violation after Snowden’s leaks. The former contractor for the US’ National Security Agency leaked confidential and secret documents that revealed the US’ extensive surveillance programme, which accessed citizen’s phone and Internet data. His leaked documents also revealed that the US has been snooping on 38 embassies and diplomatic missions of its allies, including India.
The US has charged Snowden, among other things, for espionage under the Patriot Act for leaking the documents. Snowden has been on the run since June 23; he first went to Hong Kong from where he slipped into Moscow. Stuck in the transit area at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport, Snowden has sought asylum from 21 countries, and has reportedly withdrew his asylum application to Russia.
“Our embassy in Moscow did receive a communication dated 30 June from Edward Snowden. That communication did contain a request for asylum,” said India’s ministry of external affairs spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin. “We have carefully examined the request. Following that examination we have concluded that we see no reason to accede to the request.”
India’s decision comes a day after the US warned countries against granting asylum to the 30-year-old, and days after US secretary of state John Kerry visit to New Delhi.