Pegasus spyware issue India's internal matter: Israeli envoy

Asia's Tech News Daily

Israeli envoy, Pegasus spyware, data privacy, NSO, Indian Govt

Israel does not allow companies like NSO to sell their products to non-governmental actors, newly-appointed Israeli Ambassador to India Naor Gilon said on Thursday while describing the row over the alleged use of the firm’s spyware Pegasus in India as an internal matter of the country.

His comments at a press conference came a day after the Supreme Court appointed a three-member committee to investigate the alleged use of Pegasus software to snoop on Indian citizens including journalists, activists and politicians.

“I will not go into more details…NSA (Group) is a private Israeli company. Every export of NSO or such companies needs an export licence of the Israeli government. We grant this export licence only for exporting to governments,” he said.

“This is the only main requirement…Under the requirements, they cannot sell it to non-governmental actors. What’s happening here in India is an internal thing for India and I would rather not go into your internal matters,” Gilon said.

He was replying to questions over allegations of unauthorised surveillance using NSO Group’s spyware Pegasus and whether the Indian government contacted Israel over the issue.

An international investigative consortium had claimed that many Indian ministers, politicians, activists, businessmen and journalists were potentially targeted by the NSO Group’s phone hacking software.

The Supreme Court has set up a three-member independent expert panel to probe the alleged use of Pegasus for targeted surveillance in India, observing the state cannot get a “free pass” every time the spectre of national security is raised.

Asked about the new quadrilateral grouping comprising India, Israel, the US and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the envoy said it is focused on cooperation in areas of the economy, trade, infrastructure and technology among others and that there is “no military element” to it.

When referred to India’s close ties with Iran and whether it will impact the cooperation under the grouping, he said it is to promote something positive and not to create something negative against anyone.

“Our cooperation is to promote something positive, it is not to create something negative against someone else,” he said.

“We are very much aware that India has its own interests when it comes to Afghanistan and Iran….I think that in discussions between countries, especially between friends, each country puts forward its own concerns and each country has its own interests, and then you see over time how it circles down, how it comes out,” the envoy said.

At the same time, he said the biggest threat Israel has been facing is from Iran, alleging that the country has been a source of instability in the Gulf region.

Gilon said Israel is keen to expand its cooperation with India in areas of economy and trade and said the proposed free trade agreement between the two sides is expected to increase the volume of economic engagement.

He said the FTA is expected to be finalised by June next year.

The envoy also said Israel is cooperating with Indian agencies probing the bombing outside the Israeli embassy in the national capital earlier this year.

“We don’t know yet the identity of the perpetrators. It is an ongoing investigation. I hope we will get to them as soon as possible,” he said.

The envoy said Israel’s cooperation with India in areas of agriculture, water and irrigation sharing is on an upswing.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar paid a visit to Israel this month during which he held talks with Israel’s top leadership to further expand the strategic ties between the two countries.

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