India to ban Huawei and ZTE from participating in 5G infrastructure

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Indian government to bar Huawei and ZTE from Indian 5G Grid after Galwan Valley clashes

The Indian government is contemplating following the United States’ advice of not allowing Huawei and ZTE participate in its 5G infrastructure. Only yesterday both Huawei and ZTE were both named by the renowned think tank ITIF as harming global telecom innovation. Huawei has already been placed under strict export ban by the United States and it is also persuading countries in its sphere of influence to bar Huawei from their 5G grids. It is also offering Brazil financial aid to abandon Huawei and get Nokia or Ericcson 5G equipment.

India had not been open to following the U.S. diktat till a few months ago but all that changed after the blatant incursion by Chinese PLA combatants into the Line of Control on Northern Ladakh border at Galwan Valley. The incursion led to the deadliest hand-to-hand scuffle between the Indian Army and PLArmy in over 3 decades. 20 Indian Army soldiers were martyred while 35 PLA combatants were killed in the melee according to US intelligence reports.

After the Galwan Valley faceoff, India has already brought in a new law forcing the e-commerce firms to publish country of origin on all the goods sold on the website to allow Indians to make an informed choice. Two Indian states, Maharashtra and Haryana have already canceled/annulled contracts worth $760 million with Chinese state-owned firms. The Indian cricket body is under tremendous public pressure to cancel the VIVO Indian Premier League title sponsorship and by all accounts, it looks like VIVO will be kicked out.

Now according to ET, the Indian Government is in the process of barring Chinese technology companies with direct or indirect links to that country’s government or military. A senior government official told ET that Huawei and ZTE are first on the list and the order will be issued soon. “Nature of ownership of Chinese tech companies will be under immense scrutiny because if the Chinese army or the state is the owner or in any significant way linked to the company, then it is a situation of great discomfort,” the Indian government official told ET.

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Telecom equipment vendors Huawei and ZTE are alleged to have links to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and to the Chinese government, accusations that the two companies have repeatedly denied. India had thus far stayed away from taking any decision on their participation in telecom supply contracts, especially 5G deployments. But soon after the mid-June border skirmish, India decided not to allow state-run phone companies Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL) to source gear from them. “We don’t wish to allow any Chinese state-run agencies to be a part of critical infrastructure in this country as there is a direct conflict of interest here,” the official added.

The government is thinking of barring private telecom players like Airtel, Vodafone, Reliance JIO from procuring Huawei and ZTE equipment in the future. “It is unlikely Huawei (or ZTE) will be permitted,” the official added.

While these measures affect Huawei and ZTE, smartphone makers like OnePlus, VIVO, OPPO, Xiaomi will also be told to manufacture smartphones in India. Strict policy regulating Chinese made Apps for cybersecurity issues like spying and espionage is in the works. “There are two issues at hand here — Huawei and ZTE have been banned for security concerns. Our security systems and critical infrastructure cannot be run by the Chinese state while we are fighting them at the border but in case of mobile handsets, the story is different,” the official said.

Smartphone makers may escape the anti-China ban if they adapt to India. “These (the phone brands) are Chinese private players and with them, it’s a battle on a different front. We wish to be self-reliant and to have domestic champions, but we don’t envisage a ban on these companies but of course, we would like to reduce our dependence upon China,” the official added.

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