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Telecommunication

Pro-Hindu group seeks ban on Chinese telecom gear makers from India's networks

Swadeshi Jagran Manch says such equipment pose national security threat

Over the years, Chinese gear makers such as Huawei and ZTE have been actively engaged in India's telecom network roll out, tying up with local mobile phone operators such as Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea.   © Reuters

MUMBAI (NewsRise) -- The economic wing of a pro-Hindu group that supports Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ruling party urged the government to ban Chinese telecom companies from India's networks, citing "unacceptable security risk."

Swadeshi Jagran Manch, the affiliate of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, asked the government to take note of the full extent of the "national and economic security threat" posed by foreign -- especially Chinese -- equipment in India's information and communications technology networks.

"China today controls a significant section of India's telecom networks even though information dominance is at the core of China's military strategy, posing an unacceptable security risk," Ashwani Mahajan, the national co-convener of the group, said in a statement on Sunday. India must make sure that only indigenous equipment is procured for telecom networks, Mahajan said.

In the past, the group sought the government to keep Chinese telecom equipment maker Huawei Technologies out of India's plans to roll out the ultra-fast fifth-generation cellular networks. The 5G networks are expected to bring internet speed up to 100 times faster than those of older generation 4G network, and is the key to new internet technologies such as artificial intelligence and cloud computing.

Huawei has been in the eye of a geopolitical storm especially amid an escalating trade war between China and the U.S. In May, U.S. President Donald Trump blacklisted the company for allegedly violating U.S. sanctions. Huawei has denied the allegations.

The U.S. has also asked its allies not to use any Huawei equipment, which it says may be used by China for spying.

Over the years, Chinese gear makers such as Huawei and ZTE have been actively engaged in India's telecom network roll out, tying up with local mobile phone operators such as Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea.

India has yet to decide whether to allow Huawei in the 5G installation trials that are set to commence in the next few months and in the auction slated for later this year. According to Reuters, earlier this month, China asked India not to block Huawei from doing business in the country, warning of similar consequences for Indian firms operating in the mainland.

"If India adopts 5G, it should be totally indigenous," Mahajan said. He also wanted the government to make it mandatory for companies to set up the cloud infrastructure component of their core 5G operations within the country.

Swadeshi Jagran Manch has in the past played a role in drawing up the government's foreign investment policy in the retail sector, including setting out the rule that disallowed e-commerce companies from selling products from firms in which they have an equity interest.

The rule dealt a blow to U.S. e-commerce companies such as Amazon.com and Walmart Inc. who had invested billions of dollars with ambitious plans to capture one of the largest retail markets in the world.

--Dhanya Ann Thoppil

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