India’s supreme leader is not just notorious for spying on Indians but also for helping other countries’ political leaders in spying on their citizens.
Why there should be more coverage of the Mauritius internet sniffing incident in India
Unbeknownst to most Indians, Mauritius, a country in the Indian Ocean, has been the focus of political controversy over claims that Prime Minister Pravind Jugnoth’s administration may have authorised the installation of surveillance equipment on the primary web. Cable touchdown station by a team of Indian technicians.
Ironically, the “Indian” aspect of the scandal didn’t surface until Jugnoth, currently under fire, revealed the nationalities of the “technicians”; up until that point, it had only been established that they were from another country. Judith also announced that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had approved their request to “survey” the landing station at Bay Jacot on the south coast of Mauritius.
Let’s review what has been learned thus far. Sunny Singh, the CEO of Mauritius Telecom for seven years, left his position on June 30, 2022. In a letter to the company’s staff that provides phone and Internet services, he stated, “I can’t continue without compromising my ideas, and this isn’t an option for me.
Since then, MT’s chief technology officer has also left the company, obliquely declaring that he was “making a decision to face by my beliefs and do the right thing.”
In a radio appearance, Singh explained the reason for his resignation: Jugnauth had asked him to approve the installation of web traffic monitoring technologies on the touchdown station by a “third party.”
On July 5, the opposition brought up the issue in Parliament. Judith denied giving the order for equipment to be installed “to facilitate the sniffing, interception, monitoring, or recording of web visitors to and from Mauritius.” He added another claim the following day, unaware of the can of worms he was opening with this approach, but the debate did not end there:
“Due to a safety issue, Mauritius was chosen as the location for this survey. To provide a dedicated workforce for this survey, I called Shri Narendra Modi. We do not require technicians to perform this study in Mauritius, but we would prefer to engage this Indian technician labour if we did.
Judith threw more fuel to the fire by claiming that Sherry Singh’s lack of cooperation has made him feel humiliated toward India as if including Modi as a candidate in the “ballot” wasn’t risky enough for New Delhi. He said I was expected to speak to Shri Narendra Modi before departing the following day for India.
Many people in Mauritius concluded that Modi was most likely the source of the initial request to “evaluate” the landing station online. Why else would Jugnauth claim that Singh had put him in a difficult situation?
The opposition has now called for an impartial probe, but Jugnoth, who has asked the police to start an inquiry into Sherry Singh, believes they should be given time to do their job. The political storm won’t blow up immediately because of the growing public resentment.
The affair is a public relations disaster for India and will have severe repercussions for national security.
India and Port Louis maintain close security ties. In the Agaleja Islands, roughly 1,000 kilometres north of Mauritius, India contributes to developing military infrastructure, officially known as air and sea link assistance. The presence of incumbent Okay and National Security Advisers in Mauritius indicates how tight the relationships are. The association has been marked as a priority for the National Meeting due to the web sniffing controversy, leading Jugnauth to charge that the opposition is “India bashing.”
To be clear, it still needs to be established that (1) there was an attempt to place monitoring equipment at Baie Jacotet and (2) India was responsible for the transfer.
The episode highlights the risks of security overreach if India is de facto responsible for the sniffing operation, whether it is done to spy on China, find out about shady financial flows by Indian corporations using Mauritius as a stopover, or hide money laundering. More over two thirds of the people in Mauritius are Indian, and they place a lot of value on their connections to that country. However, the majority of them would draw the line if it meant endangering their relations with other countries or violating their privacy. The SAFE cable on the touchdown station is still connecting South Africa and Malaysia.
Additionally, it shows that Modi’s administration hasn’t learned anything from the significant uproar it caused last year over the deployment of Pegasus malware and adware. This would undoubtedly raise more concerns about “sniffing” and other monitoring techniques used to track people’s website traffic in India.
It is typically possible that Jugnauth was the one who came up with the idea for the watch. There are undoubtedly many people in Mauritius who are willing to believe that their prime minister is capable of using such surveillance, going by the acrimonious internal political dispute that has broken out. But why should India have readily consented to help him in such a mission?