The Centre on Wednesday said it may blacklist certain telecom equipment vendors, reported NDTV. Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that New Delhi will also have a list of “India Trusted sources” from where firms can safely buy products and services.
This would mean that phone companies in India will only be allowed to use telecom equipment that is certified by a top security panel to have come from a “trusted source”. The certificate will be issued by a security panel headed by Deputy National Security Advisor Rajinder Khanna, who reports to National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, according to the Hindustan Times.
The committee, called the National Security Committee on Telecom, will have representatives from government departments, apart from two industry representatives and an independent expert. Collectively, they will also be empowered to blacklist companies, and essentially bar them from selling equipment to telecom firms, the newspaper reported.
The move comes amid heightened tensions between India and China. Diplomatic relations between the countries are at the nadir, as troops from both sides try to disengage in Ladakh after the worst border skirmish between the two countries in decades. Several rounds of talks have failed.
The decision to regulate the telecom industry was taken by the Cabinet Committee on Security, Prasad told a press briefing. He touted the step as a “very important” one to ensure national security.
“The Cabinet Committee on Security has given approval for a National Security Directive on Telecommunication Sector,” the Union minister said. “Under this, in order to maintain the integrity of supply chain security, the government will declare a list of trusted sources or products for the benefit of telecom service providers.”
When asked if the the move could lead to curbs on Chinese vendors, the government, however, refused to name any company or country.
It further assured that the existing telecom equipment with operators will not be impacted. “The directive does not require phone companies to replace their existing equipment and will not impact ongoing annual maintenance contracts or updates to existing equipment,” Prasad said.
An unidentified government official told the Hindustan Times that the new security directive would enable India to address concerns around equipment pitched by Chinese companies.
At the same time, the policy was also designed to secure Indian telecom infrastructure against other risks. “The fact is that India is among the top three countries in the world facing cyber-attacks,” the official said. “The government wants to minimise the risks posed by cyber attacks.”
This year, the Centre has banned over 100 mobile apps, most of them Chinese, citing threat to national security and sovereignty. Some of the popular applications in the banned list included TikTok, Shareit, Mi Video Call, Club Factory, UC Browser, Shein, WeChat and Cam Scanner, among others.