As Ladakh border faceoff simmers, Chinese telecom equipment suppliers seen as targeted in new Indian import controls

Ten Indian soldiers, including four officers, were on Jun 18 evening handed over by the Chinese. (Photo courtesy: Daily Excelsior)

(, Dec17’20) – As China remains unyielding in its determination to redraw the line of actual control between Tibet under its occupation rule and India, with troops from the two sides remaining in a faceoff in Ladakh’s current harsh winter, the latter is set to make known its disappointment by tightening controls on imports of telecom equipment, with the likelihood of especially targeting Chinese vendors.

In a first, the government of India on Dec 16 decided to issue a National Security Directive for the telecommunication sector to mandate scrutiny of telecom equipment and sources in what is seen as its latest economic offensive against Chinese equipment vendors amid heightened tension at the Ladakh border, reported the Dec 17.

The report said that the action, finalised by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), will result in a list of trusted sources and products from the government, which will also amend the licence norms for telecom companies.

The report noted that although the government had refrained from specifying the country that will be impacted, it was clearly aimed at India’s aggressive “neighbour,” with companies such as Huawei and ZTE likely to face enhanced scrutiny, and even rejections, to ward off any covert operation and possible threat to the telecom infrastructure.

The report noted that Huawei currently counted Airtel, Vodafone-Idea and other enterprise customers as its key clients in India, while ZTE remained a major supplier to BSNL and other state-owned enterprises.

The report noted that Chinese equipment suppliers were already under the scanner globally, with countries such as Australia, the US and the UK banning their access, especially in the 5G space, while others like Germany were increasing scrutiny.

Rippling effects of this impending decision were reportedly being felt in other sectors as well, the report noted. Some of the mobile operators were reported to fear that any further escalation between India and China will mean that network support and upgradations from Chinese providers may come to a halt.

India has already, in recent months, banned the import of equipment from China for use in sectors ranging from telecom to power, citing national security.

The report cited India’s communications and IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad as saying that the policy was framed keeping in mind the country’s security needs.

“The list of the trusted source and product will be decided based on approval of a committee headed by the deputy national security advisor. The committee will consist of members from relevant departments, ministries and will also have two members from the industry and independent experts. The committee will be called the National Security Committee on Telecom.”

The minister has said the government will create a list of designated sources from whom no procurement can be done.


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