India-China border clash: India to take a call on Huawei, ZTE 5G soon

India-China border
Indian soldier. Photo by Diy13

India may soon take its decision on allowing Chinese telecom equipment makers Huawei and ZTE’s in the country’s 5G networks on the back of heightened tension at the India-China border. India confirmed 20 of its troops were killed in action after the Indian Army clashed with Chinese troops in the Galway valley in Eastern Ladakh.

According to local reports, India’s Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) is expected to take a final call on the matter soon. 

The issue is being deliberated upon by an inter-ministerial committee which comprises top officials of The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), India’s Intelligence Bureau, the Department of Telecommunication (DoT) and the science and technology department.

Notably, India has already allowed Huawei and ZTE’s participation in commercial 5G field trials. The trials were scheduled to start in March this year but got delayed due to the nationwide lockdown.

Huawei and ZTE work with Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea in various telecom circles. Airtel, however, reduced dependence on Huawei lately by swapping its network in Rajasthan state with Ericsson’s 4G gear.

ZTE also provides technology to state-run telecom operator BSNL.
Notably, Indian telecom czar Sunil Bharti Mittal, chairman of Bharti Enterprises, which owns Bharti Airtel, publically praised Huawei and said that the company’s telecom equipment was superior to products of European suppliers Nokia and Ericsson.

The United States had last year urged India not to use 5G telecom equipment from Huawei. It said that Huawei is capable of using backdoors to spy and steal personal data if installed in India’s telecom networks.

China, however, had warned India of economic consequences if Huawei was excluded from 5G networks

US allies like Australia, New Zealand, and others have decided not to allow Huawei in their respective 5G networks. The UK, on the other hand, has allowed Huawei’s participation in the country’s 5G networks in a limited manner.

The Indian government is also evaluating its dependence on China for electronics and mobile handsets. The Indian market is currently dominated by Chinese brands such as Xiaomi, Oppo, Vivo, and RealmeThe Indian government has already started inviting applications for three local schemes—PLI, Scheme for Promotion of Manufacturing of Electronic Components and Semiconductors (SPECS), and Modified Electronics Manufacturing Clusters (EMC 2.0) Scheme. Under these schemes, India is offering a total of Rs 50,000 crore worth of incentives to global and Indian electronics players to expand manufacturing.

“This hostility is likely to create a rethink about India’s manufacturing dependence on China. Also, there is a more compelling need to revisit the security architecture,” a top Indian government official was quoted as saying by the Economic Times. 

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