Word from our man in Delhi that Indians are getting in a tizzy about their country being ringed by Chinese-built IT infrastructure and communications networks, already being likened to an electronic string of pearls. India’s intelligence agencies have raised concerns that contracts awarded to Huawei and ZTE to build telecoms networks and data centres in India’s neighbours such as Nepal, Sri Lanka and the Maldives pose a threat to national security because they could compromise the integrity of India’s telecom and internet networks. Intelligence officials suspect Huawei and ZTE of maintaining close links with the PLA. A similar concern has been expressed in the U.S. and Europe.
Indian intelligence services want Delhi to offer technical expertise and assistance to countries like the Maldives to forestall the advances of China, which many Indians also suspect of being behind the islands’ recent decision to terminate the contract of an Indian company developing an airport there. India’s communications ministry also is pushing Indian companies to bid for telecoms and IT infrastructure contracts, and presumably is lobbying for financing and diplomacy to support them.
Our man tells us that last year the ministry quietly told Indian companies not to buy Chinese made telecoms equipment, regardless of how cheap it is, for fear it had spying capabilities built in to it. With China friendly not only to Nepal, Sri Lanka and the Maldives but also Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar and Pakistan, it doesn’t take much for Indians to feel encircled.