Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei: India is not an “open house" for asylum seekers because the country has a “very careful and restrictive policy" on the issue, external affairs minister Salman Khurshid said on Tuesday.

Khurshid was responding to a question on news reports that US National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden had requested asylum in 20 countries, including India.

On Tuesday, India rejected a request for asylum from Snowden. “I can confirm that earlier today our Embassy in Moscow did receive a communication dated 30 June from Mr Edward Snowden. That communication did contain a request for asylum. We have carefully examined the request. Following that examination, we have concluded that we see no reason to accede to the request," an external affairs ministry spokesperson said in New Delhi.

Khurshid said the government had raised the issue of India being one of the top countries under data surveillance by the American NSA when US secretary of state John Kerry visited New Delhi on 24 June for the India-US strategic dialogue.

“We had an issue, which was discussed when secretary Kerry was in India," Khurshid said. “He made a very clear explanation that no content has been sought or received of any email. What has been done is computer analysis of patterns of communication. He explained, I believe…(that) some of this information prevented terrorist attacks. So, I think as far as we are concerned, there is no issue today."

The minister’s comments came against the backdrop of fresh media reports citing Snowden that the US was listening in on communications from the embassies of allies such as France, Italy and Greece, as well as Japan, Mexico, South Korea, India and Turkey.

On Snowden seeking asylum, Khurshid said: “I am here (in Brunei). I have no knowledge that he has (asked for asylum)." He was speaking with reporters on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) regional forum meeting in Bandar Seri Begawan.

“I wouldn’t want to comment on something that is, maybe, just hearsay because India has a very careful and restrictive policy on asylums. We have given asylums in the past, but we are not an open house for asylums since we have a very careful and objective policy. So, when and if somebody applies, all that is actually looked at before we can give you a response. But I haven’t seen any myself. But let me get back (to India) and we will see," the minister said.

Snowden is reported to be in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport since 23 June after flying to Russia from Hong Kong, from where he leaked secret documents detailing NSA surveillance programmes.

He has been stripped of his US passport and attempts by him to gain political asylum appear to have been unsuccessful so far amid intense US lobbying.

According to a post on the WikiLeaks website, “On 30th June, WikiLeaks’ legal advisor in the Snowden matter, Sarah Harrison, submitted by hand a number of requests for asylum and asylum assistance on behalf of Edward J. Snowden, the NSA whistleblower. The requests were delivered to an official at the Russian consulate at Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow late in the evening. The documents outline the risks of persecution Mr Snowden faces in the United States..." The requests are being made to Austria, Bolivia, Brazil, China, Cuba, Finland, France, Germany, India, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Norway, Poland, Russia, Spain, Switzerland and Venezuela, the post said.

PTI contributed to this story.

Elizabeth Roche is in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei, as a part of an India-Asean media exchange programme.

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