Spying allegations shake India ahead of key regional elections

New Delhi, Jan 29 (EFE).- New reports on the Indian government’s alleged use of Israeli firm NSO Group’s Pegasus program to spy on political leaders and journalists have caused a storm with the Asian giant poised to hold key regional elections.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government “bought Pegasus to spy on our democratic institutions, politicians and citizens. Government functionaries, opposition leaders, armed forces, the judiciary, all were targeted by these phone tappings. This is treason,” said opposition Congress Party leader Rahul Gandhi.

“The Modi government has committed treason,” he added in a message on Twitter.

The politician’s accusation, part of a tsunami of reactions from India’s political scene, comes after a publication Saturday in The New York Times claiming that the Indian government procured the Israeli program as part of a Defense deal during a state visit in 2017.

Narendra Modi traveled to Tel Aviv in July 2017, becoming the first head of the Indian government to visit Israel, which was seen by some as a turning point in India’s position on Israel.

“The Modi government bought Pegasus in 2017 along with other military technologies as the centerpiece of a $2 billion package of arms and intelligence equipment from Israel,” Congress party secretary Randeep Surjewala said based on the Times’ report.

The first accusations against the Indian government emerged last year after Project Pegasus, an investigation by more than 80 journalists from 17 media organizations in 10 countries, claimed that spyware was used for targeted surveillance in India.

When questioned last year by parliament, however, the government denied the surveillance allegations or that it had acquired the software.

The Indian Supreme Court formed a special panel to investigate the allegations and asked people who had “reasonable” suspicions that they were being monitored by the Israeli program to contact the court.

The revelations that made the headlines on most of the country’s TV channels and news outlets on Saturday come in the midst of campaigns for regional legislative elections in five states of the country, which start February 10.

It is a key contest for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which will try to solidify its power in regions considered strongholds of the Hindu nationalist party, as well as gain ground in states in the hands of opponents. EFE


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