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Why India is taking the U.S.'s Side in the Snowden Scandal

When The Guardian revealed on Sunday that the U.S. was spying on at least 38 country missions in the United States, including its ally India, an angry reaction was to be expected. The European Union came out strongly against the surveillance program, with E.U. commissioner Viviane Reding saying that “partners do not spy on each other” and Germany’s Foreign Ministry calling the U.S. ambassador to register a formal complaint.

Not India.

“Some of the information they got out of their scrutiny, they were able to use it to prevent serious terrorist attacks in several countries," Salman Khurshid, India's external affairs minister, told reporters. “This is not scrutiny and access to actual messages. It is only computer analysis of patterns of calls and emails that are being sent ... it is not actually snooping on the content of anyone's messages or conversations.” And former Indian ambassador Ronen Sen said: “It is standard practice for all major countries to keep an eye on the diplomatic missions of friend and foe alike. And not only embassies—also guesthouses, car services and trade mission known to be used by foreign diplomats."

The response is hardly surprising. India has always been careful not to alienate the United States, and just a few months ago its government quietly launched its own, very similar spying program, the Central Monitoring System, which allows authorities to monitor phone calls, texts, and online activities. In siding with the U.S., India is sending a signal to any potential Edward Snowdens employed within in its own security apparatus.

But India is not totally on board with such surveillance, they'll have you know. On Wednesday, The Times of India reported that the government was now in “damage-control” mode. A spokesperson for the government told the paper, "We have seen and studied the media reports of our embassy in Washington being among the list of diplomatic missions which were intrusively monitored by the U.S. agencies. Obviously, we are concerned at such disconcerting reports and we will certainly raise with the U.S. authorities these serious allegations." Don't count on it, though.