In an invitation to Huawei, the telecom secretary asked it to participate in the trials, and even complimented it for developing the telecom sector in India.
Amid concerns in the western world about operations of Chinese telecom giant Huawei, the company has been allowed by India to participate in 5G trials, a sign of the new atmosphere of political goodwill between the two neighbours’ leadership.
When the government initially sent out invites to global 5G majors, Chinese firms Huawei or ZTE were not invited. It took a protest by Huawei, which has established a big centre in India, for the government to relent. ZTE, though, didn’t receive any invitation.
In an invitation to Huawei, the telecom secretary asked it to participate in the trials, and even complimented it for developing the telecom sector in India. The others invited are Nokia, Ericsson and Samsung, all of whom have started making presentations to the government.
Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer and daughter of the founder, awaits extradition to the US by Canada on charges of fraud and her company’s alleged links to a firm that tried to sell equipment to Iran despite sanctions. It has brought into sharper focus the growing digital divide where commercial, technological and security concerns are intertwined.
The real issue is Huawei’s close connections to the Chinese military complex. Given that China is India’s biggest strategic challenge, the government’s decision to allow Huawei to take pole position in India’s 5G ecosystems may have geopolitical implications as well, sources said.
The US recently asked its treaty allies and other close partners to refrain from using Huawei in their systems. The ‘Five Eyes’ – US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand – joined in to restrict Huawei’s presence in their 5G systems. Germany and other European powers have issued their own restrictions on Chinese tech investments. It is likely that Japan, a close US ally, would follow suit.
A Huawei statement said: “As a leading global supplier of telecoms equipment, we remain committed to developing trusted and secure solutions for our customers. We continue to receive full support from the Government and industry partners alike. Having a proven track record of doing business in the country, we continue to work closely with Government of India and other industry stakeholders.”
India hasn’t articulated its security concerns, but sources say there’s an unwritten rule against Chinese investments in sectors which could soon be labelled ‘critical infrastructure’. The government has set up a high-level 5G forum, which includes secretaries from telecom, science & technology, electronics & IT besides some experts.