An Indian view on history, current affairs and politics

March 27, 2023

The Snowden Affair


India was the first country to reject Edward Snowden’s request for asylum, among a bunch of 21 countries that he applied to. The rejection came within hours of receiving the request at its foreign office mission in Moscow. Considering how the Indian bureaucracy works, this was surprising. With its inefficient administration and usually directionless policies, India takes excruciatingly long to take a decision on anything important, and here we were taking a quick decision on Snowden pretending to have thought it through. Snowden’s leaks revealed that India was fifth largest target of NSA’s electronic espionage. Given this, there was widespread condemnation of India’s supine response. To be frank no one expected India’s spineless regime to grant asylum to Snowden. The least they could have done was taken some time to respond. The idiocy of state-craft was evident in External affairs minister’s response to the report of NSA’s espionage efforts. He practically restated Kerry’s lines. That this was just an attempt to analyze the pattern of calls and messages and the content was not compromised. Well ! how do you know he is telling the truth Mr. Minister. Even if he was, how come analysis of secret communication from your embassy is acceptable, that you could not mince a single word of protest!

The fact that Mr. Snowden chose India to apply for asylum is interesting in itself. What was he thinking? I’m sure he did not consult his Indian friends or acquaintances , if he had any, before applying. I’d think his consideration of India was based on two factors. Since India was one of the major victims of NSA’s snooping, he might have assumed he’d get Indian favor in return for the leaks, maybe granted asylum out of sympathy for the hounding he’s been getting from US. He was deceived by spinelessness of ruling Indian regime. For a country that does not even have firm guidelines or process for considering asylum requests, the decision was unusually quick.

A recent investigation has revealed that Mr. Snowden had traveled to India before 2011, a fact that he failed to disclose during his background check. The details of his trip are not available but looks like his stay in India gave him confidence in this country’s ability to provide him with shelter when the time came.

Should India have given asylum to Snowden is a matter of debate. While most thought India should have stood up to US pressure, many favored pragmatism. For a bureaucrat sitting in south block insulated from the changing geopolitics all around, he did not seem to have any of that moral dilemma. Hair standing at the back of his neck or may be a twitch in his mustache sealed Snowden’s fate. India’s knee-jerk reactive foreign policy continues to shine in its autistic brilliance.