Back in June and July, during much more innocent times, Glyn Moody and Tim Cushing doubled up on stories about the intrusive surveillance system India had set up and commented on how the NSA must have been drooling over having that kind of capability. Now, those stories probably seem sweetly ignorant, since we know much more about what the NSA is both capable of doing and how little restraint they suffer, but the point is that India is not made up of saints when it comes to respecting the privacy of their citizens.
But, having said that, India is an incredibly important friend and ally of the United States. They’re an important trading partner and a nation with aligned goals when it comes to fighting terrorism. So it may be a sign of trouble that India distrusts the American government enough to force government officials to pull their email from American-based email providers.
The move is intended to increase the security of confidential government data and information after it was revealed earlier that NSA may be involved in widespread spying and surveillance activities across the globe.
In a statement to reporters here J. Satyanarayana, secretary in the department of electronics and information technology, said that data of Indian citizens using US based email services like Gmail is residing on servers which are located outside India and for now the government is concerned about the large amount of official and critical data that may be resident on those servers.
That’s the problem with unfettered hubris from a global power like the United States: you’re going to start losing friends. It’s one thing to spy on unfriendly nations. That might still have its problems, but you’re going to have an easy sell to your citizens on the question and it doesn’t matter all that much if you’re found out because, hey, the spied-upon already hate you. But when you begin turning your spy-sights on your allies, particularly allies as important as the Indian government, you just have to wonder whether more harm than good will come of all this. Yes, there’s a cynical response that this also helps those in power in India better use their own surveillance capabilities to spy on everyone within the government, but that doesn’t diminish the potential harm between US and India.
In an increasingly connected globe, the postures of our allies are every bit as important as those of our enemies. The American government pissed off a friend in India, Hopefully that won’t come back to bite us.