* U.S. says hopes row will not harm ties
* Washington keen to develop ties with new Modi government
* India seen as counterbalance to China, trade partner
(Recasts with U.S. comment)
By Sruthi Gottipati and David Brunnstrom
NEW DELHI/WASHINGTON, July 2 India summoned a
senior U.S. diplomat on Wednesday to explain reports that the
U.S. National Security Agency was authorised to spy on Prime
Minister Narendra Modi's party before he took office, and to
seek assurances this would not happen in 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 organisations 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 Peoples 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
authorisations 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."
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 defence 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.
BJP 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
McCain, who told the Senate last week that Washington should
seek to help India's economic and military development,
cancelled 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
taking forward bilateral relations, 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
(Additional reporting and writing by Frank Jack Daniel in New
Delhi and David Brunnstrom in Washington; Editing by Mohammad
Zargham; Editing by Ron Popeski)