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US to Indian Cos: Don’t Share Our Goods With Huawei

June 19, 2019 06:22 AM

COURTESY THE ET JUNE 19

US to Indian Cos: Don’t Share Our Goods With Huawei
External affairs ministry seeks views of various departments after letter from Washington
Anandita.Mankotia@timesgroup.com

New Delhi:

The US has warned the Indian government that companies found supplying equipment or other products of American origin to Huawei or its units could face punitive action, said people with knowledge of the matter. The May 27 letter, sent to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), is being seen as part of US efforts to intensify pressure on India to act against the Chinese company.


The MEA has in turn sought the views of the Department of Telecom (DoT), Niti Aayog, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Department of Commerce and the principal scientific adviser on the implications of US’ curbs on Huawei for Indian firms, a senior government official told ET.

“Three questions have been posed by the MEA — to examine information provided by the US, including possibility of action against Indian firms that supply US-origin software and equipment to Huawei and also to provide views on the recommendations of a recent 5G security conference at Prague and overall opinion on the matter,” the official said.

Sources told ET the recommendations of the Prague conference in May had been ‘general’ and didn’t single out any company.


Call for Robust Security Framework

But the latest communication from the US authorities to India had largely to do with details of the recent ban on equipment from Huawei and a list of its units. These included 35 registered companies in China and affiliates such as Huawei Sri Lanka, Huawei Pakistan and Huawei Hong Kong.

Crucially, the Chinese were not invited for the conference, which saw telecom chiefs from 32 countries, and which essentially recommended that governments adopt 5G network standards that Huawei might not be able to meet, due to Chinese laws requiring cooperation in intelligence-gathering efforts, sources said. An official said the Prague summit called for a robust security framework.

“A country’s communications system should be designed with resilience and security, and should have its own security policies,” he said, citing the summit’s key recommendation. It didn’t name any company or country. “So, on the issues of privacy and security, we are in confirmation with these principles outlined at the Prague conference that each country’s communication network should be safe and secure.”

However, the matter of Indian companies being possibly accountable and punishable for supplying US hardware or software to Huawei or its associates is not easy to resolve. “Huawei has the maximum 5G patents and there is no doubt that they have taken the lead in this technology,” the official said. “Now, if we permit our companies to deploy Huawei, and somewhere in the entire supply chain or network operations, if some US software is deployed, the probability for which is high, how would it impact our companies?”

While no Indian company was mentioned in the detailed list provided by the US authorities, the communication required careful study and response, said the people cited above.

It comes as the Indian government is holding internal top-level discussions to take a final decision on whether to permit Huawei to participate at all in 5G trials, which are expected to commence shortly. The DoT’s views have also been sought on the matter, but the telecom department has been divided on the issue so far, said people with knowledge of the matter.

One section contends that the country can’t depend on just two network equipment suppliers — Nokia and Ericsson — and points out that there are risks from European vendors as well. It argues that Huawei should be given an opportunity in the 5G trials, which will also allow India to scrutinise security vulnerabilities, if any.

 

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