The Government of India has acted correctly in ensuring that from 15 June, increased firewalls are placed to reduce the threat of malicious activity involving cyber attack. It must be admitted that the twists and turns in policy during the UPA period relating to the telecom industry have resulted in a culling of the industry in India. The focus being entirely profit maximisation by the government, very high rates were charged for spectrum by the present government, which from the start has sought to raise revenues, including through petroleum prices remaining high and climbing higher despite steep falls in the cost of crude oil in recent years. During the UPA period, a Supreme Court decision removed several players from the telecom market, thereby having the unintended effect of reducing the options available to users of telecom. This being an essential tool in modern life, the plight of the telecom industry in India has had its own impact on the unsatisfactory rates of economic growth that the country has witnessed these past years. As a consequence of the poor state of balance sheets, some of the few remaining players in the telecom sector in India have looked to the People’s Republic of China for succour. They have turned to telecom companies that are actively involved in the colonisation by the Pakistan military of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and the attached Indian territory of Gilgit-Baltistan. It is extraordinary that telecom companies from the PRC that actively assist the Pakistan military in its anti-India activities make huge amounts of money not from Pakistan (where they are present as a consequence of the order of the Communist Party of China, which has long regarded the military in Pakistan as an accomplice that needs to be nourished) but from India, the country (together with Iran and Afghanistan) that the Pakistan military assisted by PRC telecom companies is committing aggression against. The extent of assistance given to the Pakistan military by Chinese telecom companies (including in enabling communications between military controllers and terrorists operating in various parts of India) require an international probe. Assisting in the logistics that ultimately get used by terror groups cannot in any way be construed as legitimate business activity. Those Chinese companies that are involved in PoK and more generally with the non-conventional warfare conducted by the Pakistan military should be banned from the entire world. The irony is that their most profitable market is India, the victim of the very military that they are assisting in operations against the world’s biggest democracy. More than 70% of mobile handsets sold in India are from PRC entities, while much of the switching and other equipment also come from them.
The manner in which Mumbai was deprived of power for so long as a consequence of cyber intrusion should be a wake-up call for the Government of India, instead of the ostrich attitude adopted by ministers who deny that such an obvious intrusion took place. Such a level of ignorance about the manner in which the PLA conducts operations against India should not be permitted to continue. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been resolute in safeguarding the interests of India, and needs to ensure that within the core team of the Government of India, there is adequate awareness of the threat of intrusion. Such attacks are facilitated by the ubiquity of PRC equipment in India’s electricity and other critical systems. That this is a state of affairs that ought not to continue is obvious. Thanks to the determination of the Prime Minister, steps are being taken to address the vulnerability inherent in the excessive reliance on Chinese equipment for critical infrastructure. A program of removing such exposure needs to be put into operation on a war footing while at the same time taking care to ensure that the financial health of the domestic telecom sector is looked after, including through policy designed to nurse the industry back to health. That India is so heavily reliant on foreign products in such a critical industry as telecom, or in equipment for power, is a commentary on earlier governments who sought to import whenever they could, usually at the cost of domestic manufacturers. Imports bring in a fattening of bank accounts in locations such as Macau or Zurich, which is why there has been such a proliferation in the past of imports, imports, imports. The focus on a self-reliant economy has come not a moment too soon. In particular, efforts need to be launched to ensure that the vulnerability caused by reliance on equipment from sources that are the primary facilitators of the non-conventional operations of the Pakistan military against India get halted. The country is in a state of war, and it is not only the borders that are the battlefield but electrical plants, water stations and even the streets of big cities that have become the theatres of confrontation, often waged through clandestine and unconventional means by a deadly foe that is the principal backer of GHQ Rawalpindi in the activities of that entity against the world’s most populous democracy. Modi 2.0 has done well in initiating a process of decoupling of equipment from those that are hand in glove with hostile forces active on the northern and western borders. This drive needs to go forward, so that the country is secured against attack on fronts other than kinetic.