International challenges will increase here on , on Prime Minister Modi..
Two events that have taken place recently merits attention and also discussions. First concerns dilution of certain norms in FDI and other sectors which will allow Chinese items to be imported in the country. This comes after the government took serious actions against China and chinese companies after the Galvan valley attack and face off between the two countries.
The second event is about Quad meeting that took place on Friday i.e 12th March 2021 in virtual mode between the 4 heads of the nations , namely Australia, India, Japan and the United States.
Both the events are singularly important and critical from a policy and security point of view. Both of them involve China and last but not least both the events concerns India’s security issue from a short as well as long term perspective.
Let us take the first issue. A few months back Huawei which has been banned by UNited States over spying charges has been given clearance to conduct equipment trials despite govt urging telecom companies earlier to reduce their dependence on Chinese equipment. Dept of Telecom (DoTs) Telecom Engineering center (TEC) in a goof up (?) granted certificates allowing Huawei to conduct testing of its gear. However, later, DOT cancelled the certificates and the equipment that were already on the chinese ports to be sent to India were halted.
To prevent such occurances the govt issued a directive in December 2020 and the Cabinet Committee on Security had approved setting up of a new National Security Directive on the telecommunication sector with an intent to classify telecom products and their sources under the ‘trusted’ and ‘non-trusted’ categories.There were also some changes in the relevant organizations.
As a major correction, this week i.e on 10 march 2021 the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) amended licensing conditions for telecom companies by including defence and national security as parameters in purchase of telecom equipment for trusted sources. The move could potentially make it more difficult for Chinese telecom equipment vendors like Huawei and ZTE to supply equipment to Indian telecom players in the future ( that can be the handwork and mischief of some lobbyist cases just like this certification).
As per the notification, starting June 15, telcos can use telecom products only from trusted sources in its network and must take permission from the designated authority if they plan to upgrade their existing network using telecom equipment that has not been designated as trusted product. Both Huawei and ZTE have been under global scrutiny for allegedly installing ‘backdoor’ or ‘trap door’ vulnerabilities and spying for the Chinese government and have been banned by several countries.
Of the three telcos, almost 30 per cent of Bharti Airtel’s existing network comprises Chinese telecom equipment, it is as much as 40 per cent for Vodafone Idea. State-run telcos Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL) too have equipment from Chinese vendors, including Huawei and ZTE, in their 3G and older networks.
However there is still sufficient hole fpor someone to peep in as the new norms, as per DoT will not impact the annual maintenance contracts or upgrades to existing equipment already being used by the telcos in their networks.
To give another example of notorious activities that happen in this all crucial sector BSNL has sought a nod to keep out Indian core network conditions as mandated by the telecom departments panel for 4G.
The other event is just the opposite of the previous one. Meeting of the four countries (Quad) was concluded yesterday in virtual mode. The event was important for many reasons. For one it is the only tangible and strong response to the Chinese threats that India has to face as well as the world due to the dagons aggressive policy in the all important Indo-Pacific ocean and beyond. ( Please read our extensive coverage on defence and Foreign issues on our Samanvaya portal : http://samanvaya.org.in/
During the 2020 presidential campaign, it was an open question whether candidate Joe Biden would sustain the Trump administration’s commitment to the Quad. Although the initiative enjoyed support from a broad cross-section of U.S. national security experts and three of America’s key partners in the region, the Obama administration had shown little interest in the Quad. Might a President Biden break with the initiative, or at least substantially alter it, returning to the more accommodating patterns established by President Obama? . There was a big question mark on the fate of Quad and hence China.
However first it was good to see President Biden greeting PM Modi on the occasion. US President Joe Biden spoke to Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the first summit of the Quad or Quadrilateral coalition on Friday. It was the first time Modi and Biden came face-to-face after the American leader took charge in Washington in January. “Prime Minister Modi… it’s great to see you,” President Biden, greeted PM Modi as he welcomed him to speak.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “It is good to be among friends. I thank President Biden for this initiative. We are united by our democratic values and our commitment to a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific. Our agenda today covers areas like vaccines, climate change and emerging technologies make the Quad a force for global good.” (https://www.dnaindia.com/
These two events as diverse as they are also have some most striking common theme in between them – i.e the chinese factor. So far so good is what the present status is after reading the two news , however things can change very fast because of many things happening simultaneously everywhere. All governments and all presidents and PMs come under pressure from various groups, lobbies and interests besides of course political pressures.
Under the present international situation and prevailing uncertainty we expect building up pressure on Prime Minister Modi from diverse groups and countries in the days, months and years to come.
Dr Asheesh Shah