Amid the India-China standoff along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh, the Cabinet on Wednesday cleared a proposal to secure telecom infrastructure by designating a “trusted source” for the purchase of equipment by service providers.
Under the provisions of this directive, the government will declare a list of trusted sources and trusted products for installation in the country’s telecom network.
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“The methodology to designate trusted products will be devised by the designated authority, the National Cyber Security Coordinator. Telecom service providers are required to connect new devices that are designated trusted products,” Law and Telecoms Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told a news conference on Wednesday.
While Prasad did not name any company or country from which sourcing of equipment would not be allowed, some Indian government officials have privately expressed concerns over mobile carriers’ use of telecom gear from Huawei, which the United States has accused of spying for China.
He added that the step has been taken to strengthen national security and further Atmanirbhar Bharat objectives including through the involvement of all stakeholders within government and in the private sector.
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China and India have been locked in a military standoff along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh since May this year. Several rounds of talks between the two countries to resolve the standoff have not yielded any concrete outcome.
“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,” Prasad said.
The government will also create a list of designated sources from whom no procurement can be done.
“The present directive does not envisage mandatory replacement of the existing equipment already inducted in the network of TSPs,” the minister said.
Huawei has previously denied spying allegations and said it is open to a “no backdoor” agreement with India to allay security concerns.
India has so far not banned Huawei or ZTE, and its telecoms department did not immediately respond to a request asking if the policy was aimed at Chinese gearmakers.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has told two state-run telecoms firms to use locally-made rather than Chinese telecom equipment to upgrade their mobile networks to 4G.
India will auction 2,251 megahertz (MHz) of airwaves worth over 3.92 trillion rupees ($53.2 billion) across seven bands ranging from 700 MHz to 2500 MHz.
Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani, who controls India’s biggest carrier Jio, has already said his company is looking to launch 5G services in the country in the second half of 2021.
Last year, the government banned imports of Chinese handsets without the International Mobile Equipment Identity, or IMEI, number, again citing security reasons such as the use of stolen handsets to make terror or hoax calls.
The IMEI number of a mobile phone is a 15-digit number unique to every mobile handset. It prevents stolen handsets from making calls and allows security agencies to track down a specific user.
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