Telecom equipment import curbs not China-specific: Sharma


New Delhi: Curbs on the import of telecom equipment are part of a broader policy decision and not directed against any country such as China, Commerce Minister Anand Sharma said Monday.

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“We are not targeting any country. The decision is not China-specific. We do what is in the interest of India,” Sharma told reporters here when asked about the recent restrictions on import of Chinese telecom equipment to India.

He was speaking on the sidelines of a conference organised by the Tea Research Association of India.

“There are some security parameters which have been defined by the concerned authorities and ministry of home affairs. While we encourage trade, we are also mindful of some of the needs of the security establishments,” he said.

Though officials from the department of telecommunications (DoT) and the commerce ministry are maintaining that there is no “blanket ban” on the import of Chinese telecom equipment into India, telecom operators in India say they are not being allowed to procure equipment from Chinese vendors and this is affecting their business.

Some of the mobile service operators are claiming that they have received a letter from the DoT that it would take time to clear the purchase of Chinese equipment for their operations as it had to be cleared by the ministry of home affairs.

Officials said the government was looking at all equipment and the purchases were being decided on “case to case basis” due to security reasons.

The Indian government is apparently worried that these equipment can provide Chinese intelligence agencies access to telecom networks in India.

The telecom companies are asked to submit details of the equipment they are procuring and these are then forwarded to the home ministry for clearance.

Top honchos of Chinese telecom firms like ZTE and Huawei are in constant touch with the senior government officials to resolve the issues.

The Chinese equipment are cheaper than what the US and European companies offer. Almost all telecom companies, including Bharti Airtel, Reliance Communications, Vodafone and state-run Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd import equipment from Chinese suppliers.

Media reports earlier said that Chinese companies are being disallowed to bid for some contracts to supply telecom equipment to Indian companies and some of their shipments are stuck in India for want of various clearances.