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Mainstream, VOL LI, No 32, July 27, 2013

US Trampling on Interests of Strategic: Partners to Satisfy its Own Aspirations

Sunday 28 July 2013


by T.R. Choudhury

The recent disclosures from American whistleblower Edward Snowden that the US’ National Security Agency shadowed telephone calls and e-mail correspondence of foreign nationals offer the clearest evidence till date of the fact that the United States, which prides itself as the principal advocate of democracy and human rights worldwide, is in effect the main offender of its professed values and international law as a whole. But what is really odd is that the White House carried out illegal activities in this regard not only against America’s rivals but also against its closest allies and in equal measure. As the reports reveal, India too was not an exception regardless of whatever External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid has said in virtual justification of Washington’s actions on this score. And it is by now confirmed that the cyberspace of China, Japan and some European states was penetrated through the surveillance operations.

Not just these frightening disclosures, the forced landing and examination of the Bolivian President’s plane was an unprecedented and flagrant violation of all international laws and specifically the Vienna Declaration on Diplomatic Relations, something unheard-of lately. According to the Declaration of 1961, the President’s plane is a sovereign territory of his country. Such an act would have been illegal even if Snowden was really on the plane.

These disclosures and happenings pose a grave question: can one rely on ths US in the final analysis when it is becoming more than transparent over time that Washington would not hesitate to violate all international laws and covenants and trample underfeet the interests of even its strategic partners in order to satisfy its own aspirations in the global arena?

Meanwhile the status quo continues with regard to Snowden. Latest reports suggest that he will have to stay at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport area for a few more days as his request for asylum is still being processed and reviewed by the Russia authorities, according to his lawyer.

What is significant is that speaking to journalists in the Siberian city of Chita, Russian President Vladimir Putin reiterated on July 27 that Snowden must “stop harming our US partner”, a condition for granting him asylum, but simultaneously defended Kremlin’s decision to grant asylum to the US whistleblower, saying: “We can’t behave like other countries. Russia has an independent foreign policy and we’re going to keep it that way.”

He then observed: “Human rights activity has its own downsize for those who engage in it. It can be quite comfortable when pursued under the tutelage of the US and with its financial, information (and) political support. When somebody wants to criticise the US, he may have problems as the incident with the Bolivian President’s plane has shown.”

Equally significant has been Snowden’s assertion, in the e-mails he exchanged with former Republican Party Senator Gordon Humphrey of New Hampshire that his knowledge of encryption and other forms of data protection meant that “no intelligence service. not even our own”, had the capacity
to compromise the secrets that he continued to protect. He said he would not reveal official secrets that could harm the US, “even under torture”.

But the US Administration continues to defend the indefensible. The White House and Congressional backers of the National Security Agency’s surveillance programme have warned that a move to end the massive collection of phone records from millions of Americans would put the US at risk from another terrorist attack.

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