New Delhi After banning 59 Chinese apps, the Indian government is considering whether the presence of China’s Huawei Technology Co and ZTE Corp may pose threat to security as some reports suggest their links to the Chinese ruling party and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
The matter has led to deliberations among officers in the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) and Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Wednesday after the two companies were on Tuesday formally designated as a national threat to the US by its Federation Communications Commission (FCC), a source said.
The MHA is learnt to have raised the issue with the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry but senior officials are tight-lipped over the issue.
It is alleged that the two Chinese telecom equipment vendors have links to the PLA and to the Chinese government– accusations that these firms have repeatedly denied.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, in a Twitter post, had also alleged that both Huawi and ZTE have close ties to the Chinese Communist Party and China’s military apparatus.
As these firms deal in critical infrastructure in India, consultations are on among security agencies and the officials concerned dealing with the matter to ensure if there is any direct or indirect link between the two firms and the PLA or the Chinese government.
India had so far stayed away from taking any decision on participation of Huawei and ZTE in telecom supply contracts, especially 5G deployments.
But, these firms may face challenges in investment approvals from the Home Ministry if they are found to have any links to the PLA or the Chinese government as this could have national security implications for India in the wake of last month’s violent stand-off between the soldiers of Indian Army and PLA in eastern Ladakh’s Galwan Valley.
The MHA had, in April, already issued a circular withdrawing any Chinese FDI via the automatic route.
The DoT is learnt to have been tasked to specify certain security, technical and quality parameters for technical equipment relating to networking systems of these firms.
Huawei and ZTE came onto the Indian government’s radar just two days after it announced a ban on widely-used video sharing tools and 58 other mostly Chinese apps citing threat to national security.
Huawei, which was founded in 1987, had first approached the government in 2013, seeking clearance to set up a unit for electronics or telecom hardware and support services, including trading and logistics activities, at SIPCOT Special Economic Zone at Tamil Nadu’s Sriperumbudur.
The MHA had then cleared the proposal in 2015.
Earlier, proposals from Chinese telecom firms were rejected outright owing to apprehensions about embedded malware and bugs. The security clearance granted to Huawei was the first since 2013.
Huawei, in a statement on Wednesday, said it is a leading global provider of information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure and smart devices and its end-to-end portfolio of products, solutions and services are both competitive and secure.
A multinational telecommunications equipment and systems company headquartered in Shenzhen, Guangdong, ZTE Corporation is one of China’s leading telecom equipment manufacturers.