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Indian PM has no mobile phone, email to hack
Agence France Presse
File -  September 27, 2013, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (L) gestures as he speaks with US President Barack Obama in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington D.C. (AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI)
File - September 27, 2013, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (L) gestures as he speaks with US President Barack Obama in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington D.C. (AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI)
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NEW DELHI: India’s 81-year-old prime minister does not own a mobile phone or use personal email, giving New Delhi “no cause for concern” about new U.S. hacking revelations, his office said Friday.

The Guardian newspaper reported Friday that U.S. spies eavesdropped on the phone conversations of 35 world leaders after White House, Pentagon and State Department officials gave them the numbers.

The new revelations, based on a classified document provided by intelligence leaker Edward Snowden, come amid fury from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose communications were allegedly targeted.

Asked if Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was concerned, his spokesman replied: “The prime minister doesn’t use a mobile phone and he doesn’t have an email account.

“His office uses email, but he has no personal email. ... We have no information and no cause for concern,” he added.

The latest figures from India’s telecom regulator show 876 million phone connections in the country of 1.2 billion people.

The industry, however, is at the heart of one of the worst graft scandals afflicting Singh’s embattled administration with ex-telecom minister A. Raja on trial over allegedly corrupt allocation of phone licenses in 2008.

India initially played down the impact of spying by the U.S. National Security Agency, saying information gleaned from its activities had helped prevent terror attacks and loss of life.

But following allegations that computers and phones in the Indian Embassy and its U.N. mission in New York had been compromised, it took a slightly tougher line, saying it would seek answers from Washington.

Soft-spoken Singh, promoted to the top job owing to his reputation as “Mr. Clean” and a successful stint as a reformist finance minister in the 1990s, has seen his popularity plunge recently.

Instead of the wise economist, he is now portrayed in the media as out-of-touch and weak.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 26, 2013, on page 9.
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