Sunday, May 9, 2010




There has been an increasing focus by the Indian counter-intelligence agencies on the expanding presence, activities and business of the Chinese telecom giant Huawei, which is stated to have the largest mobile telephone business network in the world after Ericsson. Ever since the 1990s, there have been concerns in the Western countries over the suspected links of the company with the People's Liberation Army (PLA) and the Chinese intelligence agencies. The concerns initially started from the fact that the head of the company is a retired officer of the PLA. There were subsequent suspicions and allegations that many of its employees not only in China, but also in its overseas offices were either serving or retired officers of the PLA or the Chinese intelligence.

2. In fact,on the basis of the allegations made by the "Washington Times" in 2007, the US Committee on Foreign Investment in the US (CFIUS) made a review of the security implications of business deals between Huawei and some American companies. It called for a report on the subject from the office of the Director of National Intelligence.

3.Huawei, which greatly values its business in the US, took note of the security-related concerns being increasingly voiced in the US about the dangers of doing business with it and allowing it to acquire US companies, and reportedly volunteered to employ US citizens to supervise its contracts, which could have security implications. This offer was made following reports that it might be interested in acquiring a unit of the Motorola.

4. Wikipedia gives the following instances of security-related fears and enquiries relating to Huawei in different countries:

* A report of the US Government's Strategic Studies Institute on Argentina published in September 2007 described Huawei as "known to bribe and trap clients". The report further detailed its alleged unfair business practices, such as customers being given "full-paid trips" to China and monetary "presents".
* In February 2009, President of Indonesian mobile carrier Excelcomindo Pratama confirmed a data theft attempt by a visiting Huawei employee who "snuck in to General Manager's Network Planning Office"..
* In 2005, the possibility of Huawei's bid on British telecommunications company Marconi led to a request from the Conservative Party to the British Government to "consider the implications for Britain's defense security". Marconi was later acquired by Swedish telecommunications giant Ericsson.
* In a 2008 Military Report to the Congress, the Pentagon stated that Huawei "maintains close ties" to the PLA. In the same year, the proposed acquisition of US-based communications company 3COM Corp by Huawei led to a US Congress investigation and a subsequent determination by the Director of National Intelligence that "3Com-Huawei merger would undermine U.S. national security".
* In March 2009, Alex Allan, the Chairman of the British Joint Intelligence Committee, briefed members of the British Cabinet about the "threat", allegedely posed by Huawei's equipment in the British national telecom network BT. ( My comment: The British media reported that the JIC Chairman had told the Cabinet at a special briefing that "Huawei components that form key parts of BT's new network might already contain malicious elements that could be activated by China and which could remotely disrupt or even permanently disable the network. Such action would have a significant impact on critical services such as power and water supplies, food distribution, the financial system and transport, which were dependent on computers using the communications network to operate." )
* In September 2009, the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation started investigating the alleged links between local Chinese Huawei employees and the Chinese military. ( My comment: This enquiry was started following complaints made to the Australian Government by some serving and former Australian employees of the Chinese company about its alleged suspicious activities).

5.In the US and other Western countries, the intelligence and security agencies keep a close watch on its activities. At the same time, this has not been allowed to come in the way of its legitimate business. This would be evident from the way it has been able to expand its business in the US and Europe despite all security-related fears and enquiries. Western countries follow a policy of allowing it to operate freely in areas and fields where there are no security-related concerns and curbing its activities where such concerns exist.

6. The suspicions and fears of the Indian intelligence agencies regarding the expanding presence and activities of the Chinese company arise from the results of the enquiries faced by the company in other countries, allegations of its close links with the PLA which cannot be dismissed lightly, the dangers of allowing it to operate from sensitive places such as Bangalore where it has an expanding research and development centre and the vulnerability to which our critical infrastruture could be exposed in times of a possible military conflict with China if we depend on hard and software supplied by Chinese companies.

7. One should not forget that Saddam Hussein lost his first Gulf War with the US in 1991 even before it started because the US from which he had procured most of his communication hardware and software managed to paralyse them before its troops went in . The headquarters of Saddam's army in Baghdad was totally cut off from all communications with its units in other parts of the country.

8. Prudence demands that in our enthusiam for expanding our economic ties with China, we should not allow suspect companies such as Huawei a free run of our country and access to our communications network, which could facilitate their collection of intelligence in times of peace and war and paralyse our critical infrastructure during any military conflict.

9. The Indian intelligence agencies have done the right thing in sounding the wake-up call. Instead of taking their warnings seriously and examining what mid-course corrections are called for in our policy of giving a free run to Chinese telecommunication companies, Shri Jairam Ramesh, Minister of State For Environment, has chosen to ridicule the intelligence agencies and the Ministry of Home Affairs for imposing what he has described as needless restrictions and for being paranoid about Chinese investments. He has been quoted as saying: " We are imagining demons where there are none."

10.One could not think of a more unfortunate, ill-informed and worrisome remark. ( 9-5-10)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre for China Studies . E-mail: )


Sarang said...


Thank you for this article. I wrote a comment on Jairam Ramesh's stupid statements under one of your earlier articles:

"Read this:

This is how Mínisters in the UPA government contradict each other in a foreign country!!!! Digracing India on the world stage!!!"

One small bit of co-operation from China (climate talks) has got Ramesh sooooooo excited, it is so silly. India does have a dearth of mature politicians at the moment. And China co-operated only because it helped their selfish needs...not out of any love for India. The UPA government is hell bent on creating friendship with everyone even at the cost of national security and dignity. The divided opposition is soo impotent that no-one critically analyzes possible consequences of disastrous Goverment policies.

Sarang said...

By the way, Russia is celebrating the end of WWII with a military parade with soldiers from various countries participating. Also, World leaders are going to attend the parade. But guess who is missing from this celebration?? You guessed right (sorry, no bonus is too obvious now)!!!


Even though our soldiers were the largest volutary force in WWII, India is not invited in the Victory Day Parade. Will the UPA Government (or the Opposition)protest?? NOOOOOOO!

Disgraceful! Even friends do not care about us now!

ambi said...

Sir, countries like PRC or Pakistan or North Korea are not welfare states, but essentially Security states, with more influence of its army & intelligence officers in policy making.

Our civilian leadership should wake up to the reality that, problem or differences with these countries are not political in nature but strategic one. Our civilians will never be able to deal with them effectively if they try to solve these differences politically.

Lets talk horses to horses & not horses to donkeys.

If Pak army & ISI from Pakistan & PLA & it's intelligence agency from PRC is going to decide how to deal with India, then as their neighbour, though it should be headed by civilians, the basic frame work & strategies should be formed by RAW (oh, how much i love RAW)& Indian military.

Its time to give them autonomy, from the vice like grip of civilians. Our defense institutions are not rogue, but made of highly professionals.(There were 2 miracles of Bangladesh war of 1971. 1) India finished it off within 2 weeks & 2) At that time Jasjit Singh Aurora had so much force under his single command, that if he wanted, he could have taken over New Delhi by force. Like his Pakistani Counterparts normally do. But he didnt do that. It was a big surprise. As a professional soldier he did his job & retired gracefully). Then I wonder why our civilians keep such a tight grip around them? Give them some autonomy & see what wonders they do.

When our economy was liberated & more autonomy was given to business houses in doing their businesses, see what miracles they have done in couple of decades. I wonder why our military & intelligence community can’t repeat the same.

Well talking about our civilians, the less said the better. Sometimes I wonder how our military & intelligence chiefs deal with these dumbs. I stll remember Mulayam Singh had mistaken Pak NWFP for Balochistan, while speaking in the parliament. God bless us.

We shld not forget what our former President APJ Abdul Kalam has said: Strength recognizes strength & respects it. Treatment given to India recently by USA is a wake up call to our civilians. Its time for Intelligence & defense community to take a front seat, while civilians seat behind, while negotiating with Pak & PRC (also USA, how could I miss them)

Sarang said...


I am still skeptical about the military parade in Moscow. On the one hand I am glad that Western countries are getting together, assuming they realize the real and present danger posed by Islamic Terrorism and that their internal differences can be sorted out later. Maybe that's why no Islamic country was invited. What worries me is why was India left out? I have a notion.

Perhaps western countries are increasingly believing India is part of the problem (and not the solution) of Islamic terrorism. Perhaps they want us to compromise on Kasmir, Water, etc etc to Pakistan. Please remember, before WWII, everyone tried to appeas Hitler by allowing him to keep Austria and part of Czechoslovakia. Similarly, are they planning to appease Pakistan by allowing it to keep Afghanistan and part of India (Kasmir!). But their only problem is India won't let them and that is causing them a headache. I won't be surprised if all big powers (US EU, NATO, Russia, China) pressure us soon for concessions to Pakistan.

China will lure us with 'promises' to reign in NE militants and Maoists, Pakistan will 'promise' to end terrorism if all its demands vis-a-vis India are met. While the rest of the world will tempt our NAIVE Dr. Manmohan Singh with a dream of world peace!! Throw in the promise of a Nobel Peace Prize for him and Dr. MMS will melt away like a hot knife through warm butter. Kiss-ass ministers like J. Ramesh will convince him of the authenticity of Chinese and Pakistani 'promises' and the Congress party will proudly display the Nobel prize which Nehru narrowly missed but Dr. MMS won! The opposition, already impotent, will not raise even a whimper.

India loses everything, Pakistan gains everything, the world is happy....

Such a scenario does not look to distant. We live in sad times :(

Ashish said...

Dear Mr. Raman,

Again a very relevant article (Huawei). I am a regular reader of your writings on rediff.

I was wondering, why you never mentioned that almost all the equipments provided by the BSNL, MTNL are chinese made equipments. Here are a few of my own experiences-
1)My brother installed DSL broadband from BSNL in 2006 at his office- the CPE (Customer Premise Equipment) was supplied by BSNL, guess who made it? Huawei!!!
2)BSNL supplied "free" telephone equipments in 2007 to us in exchange of the old equipments.
3)I got Internet at home from MTNL in 2010, they offered a free CPE device, but I insisted that I use my own D-Link wireless router, they resisted. I don't understand why!? Again in this case, the maker of the CPE- Huawei.
4)The Reliance Net-Connect device that we have to use out-doors at work, is made by ZTE, again a chinese firm!

It makes me even more curious about the dealing of our telecom minister, Mr. A. Raja, What business exactly did he have when all these devices were sourced for BSNL and MTNL from the Chinese firms!