New Delhi: India on Thursday bluntly told the US that surveillance of political leaders and others in India by the American intelligence was “unacceptable” to which the US responded by saying that any differences that may exist can be resolved by intelligence communities of the two countries.
This emerged after marathon talks between visiting US Secretary of State John Kerry, the highest-ranking dignitary to visit India since the installation of the Modi government, and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj here. The two sides had wide-range of key issues like trade, defence and energy.
At a joint press conference, Swaraj was asked if she had raised the issue of surveillance of BJP leaders in 2010 by the US National Security Agency (NSA), as was made public recently on the basis of revelations of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
Swaraj replied, “I raised this issue with Secretary Kerry. I told them that when this news appeared in Indian papers, Indians were agitated and they had expressed their anger too. Main ussi rosh se apko awgat karana chahati hoon (I want to make you aware of that anger).”
“I even told him that both countries consider each other as friendly nations and it will not be acceptable to us from any angle if one friendly country spies on another friendly country. This is unacceptable to us.”
However, Kerry defended the US snooping saying, “We value our relationship with India, our bilateral relationship… we also value sharing of information between each other regarding counter-terrorism and other threats to both of our countries…”
“Usually, we try to have our intelligence communities work to resolve any questions or differences that may exist. We will continue to work actively with India wherever we see a threat to our shared interest and we fully respect and understand the feelings expressed by the Minister.”
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and US Secretary of State John Kerry today co-chaired fifth Indo-US Strategic Dialogue here on Thursday during which the two sides discussed “transformative initiatives” in key areas of security and energy.
The two leaders held nearly an hour-long restricted meeting before they were joined by their delegations comprising senior representatives from various ministries including energy and trade.
“India, US stand at an important turning point,” Swaraj told a news channel.
Ahead of the Dialogue, Kerry along with Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker met Finance and Defence Minister Arun Jaitely. The US Secretary of State’s visit is first high-level interaction at the political level after the new government came to power here.
The visit two months ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s trip to the US is aimed at instilling some vigour in bilateral ties, which appeared to have lost momentum in the final years of the UPA regime.
In an interview to NDTV ahead of meeting External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj for the 5th India-US Strategic Dialogue, Kerry said that the “attitude and tone of the new government is most exciting. There is so much opportunity and optimism as far as relations between the two countries are concerned.”
Kerry arrived in New Delhi on Wednesday on a three-day visit to strike up the US’ first high-level engagement with the Narendra Modi government.
On the issue of Modi’s US visa denial in 2005 after the Gujarat riots, Kerry said that Modi was “denied a visa by a different government.”
“We will welcome Prime Minister Modi, he will definitely get a visa,” he said.
He said the US supports India “getting a place in the Nuclear Supply Group. We are also supporting a permanent place for India on the UN Security Council”.