The Insiders cabal preventing India’s rise as a telecom power


[Aruna Sundararajan, ex-IAS, former Telecom Secretary: Being feted for what, exactly?]

It is no exaggeration to say that almost the entire senior echelon of managers — technical and generalist — manning the state apparatus — ranging from the technocratic elite in the Department of Atomic Energy, DRDO, etc., Joint Secretary-rank officers on up of the Indian Administrative Service, the Indian Foreign Service and allied services, to senior military personnel, constitute a Fifth Column, a cabal of insiders, determined on tripping the country up at every turn as it struggles to rise, make a mark, in the world. The tragedy is they do this because of their godawful belief that they are doing right by India! With Government insiders like these, India does not need enemies.

Right now we are seeing just how, with the help of telecom ministry officials and other insiders, the Chinese are set to win a contract for 5G telecommunications system, even as these insiders have tamped down brutally on a bevy of indigenous private sector companies who have earned commercial success and are tech-innovation leaders, having obtained international patents and Intellectual Property Rights in the most advanced and edgy communications hardware and software spheres that constitute 6G!!!, and who are only pleading for a fair chance and an even field to compete with Huawei, which will be denied them. This is, no thanks, to the role of this 5th column comprising latter day Mir Jaffers, seths of Murshidabad who bankrolled Clive’s successful campaign at Plassey, and Mir Sadiqs (the original Gudu Khan who as Mir Sadiq became prime minister in Tipu Sultan’s government and betrayed his king; opening the gate on the Kaveri River of the Seringapatnam fort to the East India Company army of Indian mercenaries laying siege, leading to the annexation of the ‘Carnatic’ in May 1799 after the 4th Anglo-Mysore War).

It is the same cabal that has made India abjectly dependent on foreign arms suppliers, all but killing off the homegrown Tejas light combat aircraft, its derivative the advanced medium combat aircraft, and the Arjuna main battle tank.

Re: Indian government’s love for Chinese 5G. It is a denouement, notwithstanding, massive evidence available from all over the world that Huawei is a cyberwar front for the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, and allowing Huawei 5G and related hardware in any manner or form and even by way of the peripheral systems route into India, would be to essentially “open the gate” to the enemy. This development, moreover, is despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s initiative prompted by the Swadeshi Jagran Manch’s championing of indigenous 6G technology that derailed the decision made several months back by Department of Telecommunications (then headed by Aruna Sundararajan, IAS) to sign the 5G contract with Huawei.

The consolation is there are still the proverbial handful who oppose Huawei from the inside, but apparently without much effect. There’s Dr VK Saraswat, Member of Niti Ayog and former Science Adviser to the Defence Minister and head of DRDO, whose frustration runneth over. To wit, his take on the soon to be underway 5G trials conducted by DOT-National Cyber Coordination Centre (NCCC) and the “dangers of allowing Huawei to participate in them.”

“Government should appreciate the fact”, wrote Saraswat in a January 6 note to Smita Purshottam, who retired as ambassador to Switzerland and is an uncommon IFS officer in that she passionately promotes indigenous technology and chairs the non-profit SITARA (Science, Indigenous Technology & Advanced Research Accelerator, doing yeoman work to prevent India getting swamped by imported tech, “that once HUAWEI participates in the trials [it] would lead the show and we will not be in a position to bring out the features which could be the hidden security risk as HUAWEI will field the sanitised version [to which] our surveillance teams will not have access to all the layers of hardware and software.” “Once they  lead the trials and come [up] trumps technologically which is most likely then Indian [private sector] service provider[s] will have strong reason to overlook the indigenous solution and pitch for HUAWEI” he added. “To save the situation” he recommends that “a very strong team of [Indian] cyber security experts be constituted to go through the fielded software, including the source code, and [that the] hardware be cleared by critical criterion testing team. “[Unless this is done] I am afraid”, Saraswat concludes, “that we are in trouble.” This advice has so far not been taken by the Modi government.

But why would private sector telecom service providers prefer Huawai? Because it is the cheapest. And how is it the cheapest? Because of China’s built-in financial support as subsidies to capital goods exporters. And because of Huawei’s special connection to PLA leading to Xi Jinping making clear to Modi the last two times they met that the success of Huawei 5G in India would be the metric by which bilateral relations will be judged. Huawei is able to sell its 5G cheap because, according to Purshottam, the Chinese companies underbid “by as much as 70% [to] drive our companies out.” “The history of Indian telecom [in 3G and 4G]”, she writes, is to “allow Huawei and other Chinese companies a foothold, they underbid and takeover” the market, a cycle that is set to be repeated with 5G.

With Huawei 5G in, PLA cyber warriors will be sitting pretty and in a position to eavesdrop on all communications, including the most secret by penetrating the nuclear command and control links and the military network, generally and, when required, to disrupt at will all Indian economic and banking activity by making electronic financial transactions go haywire. It is the jeopardy the Chinese 5G will get India into that moved Purshottam to write a letter on 5 January to retired Lieutenant General Rajesh Pant, who has taken over as chief of the National Cyber Coordination Centre. Purshottam does some plain speaking. Because it is important, this letter is reproduced in full below:

“I am writing to you in great concern regarding the decision to allow Huawei to participate in 5G trials. We were under the impression that Government of India was fully aware of the security concerns resulting from the presence of any Chinese or even foreign company in sensitive 5G networks.  It is therefore not understood on what basis this decision has been taken. Governments around the world have banned Huawei and Chinese telecom equipment vendors, because of China’s extensive cyber-espionage activities and also because China’s proclaimed Military Doctrine centres on Information Warfare and the control of information networks. They have already seized control of many telecommunications networks in India.

“5G will enormously increase the danger to Indian national security with Chinese control of this advanced telecommunications network. 5G will enable Artificial Intelligence to run without hindrance, collecting and weaponizing Data gathered from Indian activities. There are umpteen military applications of these synergized technologies with China leading in digitisation and intelligentization of Warfare. The Chinese aim to become Number One in 5G and AI.

We are opening ourselves up to enormous security risks akin to the Himalayan blunder of 1962.  At least we were able to recover from it but we will never recover if we allow Chinese control of our telecommunications networks. This is a terminal decision which will adversely impact the lives of the Indian people and their security for decades to come.

“There is a budget proposal to fund indigenous development of 5G technologies. This should be expedited as India has many capable indigenous companies with 5G technologies. 5G is not one technology but a composite of many.  Many Indian companies possess the know-how in these areas. They need Government support to develop the missing technologies and also assurances regarding markets.

“There is no demand except from the vendors for 5G technology as yet in India. Our industry hasn’t reached that level, and compromising our national Security so that some kids can download faster movies is not a viable trade-off. We must develop our own technology.

“We request you to ensure India’s National Security and convene an all India meeting of Industry and Government so as to reconsider this decision and ban Chinese companies from India’s networks.  5G must be deployed with indigenous equipment. The task must not be given to agencies which have betrayed India’s interests in the past, or frittered away taxpayers’ money on foreign consultancies.  The funding should be given to a specially created entity along the lines of the Delhi Metro involving security and defence forces, Industry and Government. This is too critical to be given to agencies which have no proven record of successful execution of indigenisation or Make in India.  History will not forgive us for taking a wrong decision on this vital, critical issue. The advice of experts close to the Chinese Government must not be heeded.”

The irony is that among those Purshottam refers to as “experts close to the Chinese Government” is Arogyaswami Paulraj, former Indian Navy officer, who designed and developed the APSOH sonar which became the Fleet sonar of the Indian Navy, founded CDAC, etc, left for Stanford University in 1990 and there invented MIMO (Mulitiple input, multiple output) technology that has revolutionized telecommunications, holds 80 patents, founded several cutting edge tech companies, including Aruba networks that marries Artificial Intelligence elements to WiFi networks for data analytics, sold these companies and got immensely rich. Entirely inattentive to national security concerns, Paulraj contends that Chinese 5G is the fastest route for India economically to come up to speed in the telecom sector. As to why India needs to be in the 5G forefront when the potential capacities of existing 3G and 4G systems remain unused, Paulraj does not say. Several questions arise: With the US banning Huawei 5G why is Paulraj pushing it on India? What does he get out of doing so? And what are his connections to China?

But because in Modi’s world anybody with an American stamp of “success” cannot be wrong, Paulraj’s counsel is gospel. Or, as a SITARA member MJ Shankar Raman,who owns the Sahasra Solutions software company, heard one of the top insiders say, “We should not be too nationalistic and foolish.”

About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
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23 Responses to The Insiders cabal preventing India’s rise as a telecom power

  1. Environment, Science & Technology says:

    This was not DOT, it was wrse. Smita Purushottam Founder & Chairperson SITAR*A* *The Science, Indigenous Technology & Advanced Research Accelerator* *A non-profit Trust dedicated to promoting a technologically strong India*

  2. PRATIK KUMAR says:

    Vibhishans are more dangerous than outside enemies..

  3. dxrickss says:

    Huawei and ZTE have already been accused of hacking into our networks back in 2013.

  4. vivek says:

    what about US ? are they ok with India allowing Huawei for 5G?

  5. Rahul says:

    I think I mentioned in one of my earlier comments that if we don’t take a stand we ll atrophy. That’s exactly how it is unfolding? Complaining and cutting down would become that much more harder if it comes in . We ll cut down on so many issues and our leaders would cook up stories to either condone or spin to make non issues .This is something akin to ” udhar to ek pata ghaas ka bhi nahi ugta” unfolding?
    Giving up without playing,self inflicted salami slicing
    I sense the shi is shifting and our bewakoof leaders are all alseep.

    If Huwawei gets India, it ll boost its image too,worldwide.

    I think this has some connection with the kind of thinking Shivshankar menon subscribes to.Just saying. This competition and collaboration thingy just doesn’t work in India-China according to me. But then again the dons of geoplolitics would rake up ‘zero sum thing’ and fall for it?

    I think with China we should be just stringent in almost everything, mirror their behavior.

    Recce near Anadamans – we did nothing?

    pak chin deploying subs in Arabian sea- we ll do nothing.

    And we piss in the pants on the thought of the quad, really?

    The entire world is wary of it, we r inviting it in.

    What kind of demented buffoons are we? And what the hell is the opposition doing?

    Mr. Arun Shourie as far back as early 2000s got rid of huawei equipment for the power-grids.

    Btw, Mr. Karnard, am in awe of your knowledge,and the breadth of it ! Very enlightening info.

    Reading this am shocked I just don’t trust our opposition and btw, if BJP were in the opposition I doubt if they would do any differently, that’s the irony.

    Are there people in our intelligence agencies who really care about the nation? “Hypothetically” speaking,what are the chances some of them would think about bumping some off? Our own and even the paulraj guy too. Why not? If leaders are falling short,and its clear they are ,someone should step up. Say what?

  6. Nitin Chandel says:

    Huawei is headed by Ren Zhengfei, who is a communist party member. His only allegiance is to the PLA . He takes his orders from the politburo in Beijing.

    Refresher on who we are dealing with:
    Huawei serves 3 billion people
    Huawei is an umbrella company that encompasses several other Chinese companies running AI, biometrics, data mining, analytics,facial recognition etc An Orwellian purists wet dream
    China is involved in
    Organ harvesting
    Concentration camps
    Meddling with Human genome
    Orwellian system incarnate
    Huawei is on BRI(belt and road initiative).
    Which is the cyber arm of the of the old Silk Route now BRI
    This hydra is all set to take over Europe, Asia, Africa and Americas.The bumbling idiots foisting it down our throats are only thinking about the stock market tomorrow.

    Chinese do not think in decades but centuries, they have a thousand year vision for China.
    We don’t even see what is right in front of us.
    We are being led to our own slaughter, the results will be apocalyptic and complete enslavement

  7. Vijayalakshmi says:

    Even today BSNL uses Huawei equipment – is there no security risk now ?

  8. devraj says:

    Sir.has america backed off from Iran due to Russian warning of nuclear war?

  9. Nitin Chandel says:

    Looking at Chinese expansionsim it seems obvious that they are leveraging
    1) Mackinders Hearthland theory in the form of One Belt One Road Initiative to get into Europe and control it economically, someday militarily
    2) Spykmans Rimland Theory in the form of taking over South China Sea to control seafaring all the way to Europe.
    3) They have also weaponized Art of War like no one else in the recent past.

    Is there a counter to contain China geographically by the rest of the world?

    • The US is absolutely unreliable and the rest of the world does not matter. What can India do? As advocated in my latest book– ‘Staggering Forward: Narendra Modi and India’s Global Ambition’, India’s geostrategic interests are best served by forming informal security coalitions from existing groupings — BRIS (BRICS minus China) and modified Quad or Mod Quad, i.e., Quad minus America plus a group of wealthy and capable ASEAN states.

  10. Nitin Chandel says:

    On my recent trip to India i had picked up both Why India is not a Super Power and Staggering Forward.
    Half way through Staggering Forward and I am appalled and these recent developments seem to lead India to a bottomless pit.
    Once again thank you for your brutal honesty

  11. Nitin Chandel says:

    Dear Mr Karnad
    What I wouldnt pay to have had an audio version of ‘Staggering Forward’. The zest and the piercing manner in which you have written this book can only be surpassed by an audio companion in your voice 🙂

  12. Agod7393 says:

    Sir, I follow your blog regularly. I am preparing for IFS but I dont think i can take similar viewpoints as you in UPSC Mains and Optional of Political Science and International Relations. What do you suggest.

    • Ideally, you would be tested on how well and persuasively you argue the case, not whether what you say adheres to the government line. Of course, not sure what metrics UPSC will use for selection. So, use your best judgement!

  13. Bharat kumar says:

    We don’t have a working prototype kaveri engine..
    Now DRDO is discussing about collaborating with foreign engine makers for 110kn …
    what do we get in such partnership or would this end up as JV followed up with SKT sets being assembled by some PSU..

  14. Rahul says:

    “Chief of Germany’s biggest industrial lobby group changed his position & now calls for exclusion of companies that are subject to foreign state interference! ”

    Mr. Karnad, can it change in India? Or has the train left the station?

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