August 19, 2020
Email/ letter to National Cybersecurity Coordinator, Power Minister, Princ Sec to PM, Princ Advisor to PM, Princ. Scientific Advisor to PM, Cab Sec, Defence Sec, Sec DPIIT, Sec Power, Deputy NSA, NSAB.
We have now got the emails of Shri Nitin Gadkari and NSA, both dedicated to and actively implementing PM’s Atmanirbhar program and will send this letter to them also.
Dear Gen Pant,
As you are aware, SITARA is a not-for-profit Trust dedicated to the technological upgradation of the Indian economy through indigenous efforts. SITARA has been writing since its inception and even before – to NSA’s office in 2018, and thereafter regularly to Hon’ble Prime Minister, NSCS and other bodies – to promote indigenous national capabilities.
2. We were naturally very encouraged by the slew of policies that Government had adopted to promote high-tech indigenous production, especially following the perfidious and deadly Chinese attack in Galwan. These ranged from Defence, to Surface Transport, to Power and Telecommunications, where at the instance of Officers in PMO/ NSCS/ NSAB/ DPIIT/ Power Ministry/ MOST Ministry and other Govt bodies committed to independence from foreign subjugation – the BSNL tender ruling out Indian companies was overturned and BSNL was tasked to ensure that 4G/ 5G national networks be built through domestic resources.
3. We were especially glad that Hon’ble Prime Minister gave an unambiguous call for self-reliance. This sent a clear message that Prime Minister would not tolerate any deviation from Atmanirbharta (https://telecom.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/telecom-sector-needs-to-focus-on-security-self-reliance-pm-modi/77281124).
4. Attacks on sovereignty can be of many kinds, and in the digital era, one of the most insidious was the penetration of India’s ICT networks by Chinese and other foreign companies. Given that China had adopted an aggressive, multi-domain 360 degree Information Warfare strategy, it was in the nick of time that Government came down heavily on ICT contracts awarded to Chinese companies and removed Chinese companies from the ICT ecosystem. This was essential for national security and would also give the space for Indian national economic strength to recover. In a few years, the dedication of these Officers and Departments under PM’s leadership would ensure that India gave a robust answer to attacks on its sovereignty. Along with our brave Soldiers guarding the frontiers with their lives, these would be the heroes of India’s Atmanirbharta revolution.
5. Therefore, we were truly shocked to learn that even before the ink was dry on these proclamations, attempts were being made to reverse and undo Hon’ble Prime Minister’s Atmanirbharta mandate. To start with, we wish to bring the following to your kind attention:
Dilution of local content in domestic procurement: The first one is the enclosed Public Procurement (Preference to Make in India) Order 2017 vide Order no. P-45021/ 2/2017-PP BE (II) dated June 4, 2020. This seeks to dilute the local content in telecom procurement supplies to 20%! This is a complete reversion to the old practice of favoriting foreign suppliers. We are 100% sure this does not have the PM / PMO/ NSCS/ NSAB’s approval as it goes completely against the calls for Atmanirbharta and your combined efforts on behalf of the Indian people.
Moreover, Prime Minister did not order the exclusion of Chinese companies so that FOEMs would benefit. Independent India’s history is replete with instances of how the Leadership’s good intentions have been derailed by vested interests. This is clearly an attempt to revert to the status quo, and a few years down the line, India will still be importing high value materials and remain an impoverished, low-technology economy with all the terrible consequences that entails.
We request all your intervention in ensuring this shocking deviation from PM’s command is cancelled immediately. We have come across reports of lobbying our Government departments by foreign OEMs. We request for kind consideration that access to Government departments for foreign companies and consultants be strictly controlled and monitored by the Central Vigilance Commission and our security agencies if this is what results from these meetings.
A detailed Industry Note is enclosed. It is understood TEPC has also taken this up with the relevant Govt department. From SITARA we also make the request that this be investigated and reversed. Officials should be called to account for diluting the provisions, which can only be seen in the most negative light.
Fraudulent security audit: The second is also bizarre and designed to pull the wool over the public’s eyes which is not familiar with the complexity of cyber systems. It seems that “The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) is set to direct all telecom operators to undertake an ‘information security audit’ of their networks and submit the report by October end.” The pretext is to keep “an eye on China”. https://indianexpress.com/article/india/eye-on-china-dot-to-direct-full-network-audit-by-telcos-6559030/#:~:text=After%20a%20border%20skirmish%20at,out%20of%20its%204G%20network).
As a cybersecurity expert, you are aware that it is nearly impossible to catch “backdoors” in hardware equipment. I enclose a Bloomberg article on this issue. It took the Americans several years of investigation to catch hardware backdoors the Chinese had inserted into Apple servers. The level of sophistication the Chinese have is something even the Americans cannot crack. This will just degenerate into an excuse for another tender which will be won by a foreign company for a hefty fee. Experts tell us that there’s no technology that exists for audit of such complex systems. But there is a powerful lobby of cybersecurity experts including the Big 4 (who are already being awarded lucrative contracts involving access to Indian citizens’ data, thus compromising our national security) – who will “audit” the network and certify it for a hefty fee.
We request that Government labs and NSCS must be asked to conduct this security audit if DOT feels some bugs are going to be caught. If required, our “audit” capabilities must be upgraded. But the charade of foreign OEM-conducted security audits must be stopped.
The only safety is by inducting indigenous equipment. But then there will be no scope for discretionary tenders and cosy deals, even if these are to the terrible detriment of the Nation, national security and economic growth.
So departments are working overtime to find excuses to undo PM’s mandate, and this must be stopped otherwise India will remain vulnerable to more attacks. It is really really clever to use the China excuse, which country this department has been propitiating all along. Swadeshi Jagaran Manch was forced to address PM on the attendance of the top brass of the Telecom Department at a Huawei sponsored conference, and as late as late 2019 DOT officials were availing of “training” programs in China funded by the Chinese. All this speaks for itself.
We have full confidence that we are writing to Patriots in Government, and that our plea will resonate with Prime Minister and be answered.
We also request your office, PMO, NSAB to please henceforth be aware of and maintain the utmost vigilance in ensuring the vast armies of vested interests and lobbyists are kept at bay as they must be trying desperately to overturn the Atmanirbharta program. The nation will be grateful to you all and the strengthening of India’s indigenous capabilities will be a concrete legacy you will leave behind for generations of Indians to benefit from. Consistency is the key or we will lose this fight against a determined adversary.
With regards and best wishes for all your safety,
(Smita Purushottam, Chairperson SITARA)
April 17, 2020:
SITARA wrote to several Officials in GOI warning about the adverse consequences of the BSNL Tender which excluded domestic companies from participating. Please read the self-explanatory mail dated April 17, 2020 pointing out the dangers to National Security and National Economic Security unless the Tender was withdrawn and domestic companies allowed to build the national 4G Network.
It would be a first for India and a ray of hope for the rest of the world fighting the Covid virus, to find a new high-tech power like India rising and ready to share its capabilities with its friends in the world.
Moreover, once domestic companies build the 4G network, they can build the 5G network, if medical issues have been settled by then.
It is critical that domestic companies build the 5G network as security issues multiply exponentially with the deployment of this technology, and inducting foreign equipment would be the death knell of Indian National Security. And we cannot afford to destroy one of our few remaining high-tech industries.
Image credited to @upklyak.
SITARA and TEMA have written to Government confirming that India has 5G capabilities and recommending a National Strategy including creating a DARPA/ ISRO type organisation to deploy indigenous 5G capabilities in Mission-Mode. Vietnam is ready to deploy an indigenous 5G network given the national security risks of inducting foreign equipment in national ICT networks. India cannot similarly afford to deploy foreign equipment. Building our 5G networks with indigenous equipment will also save India’s high-tech sector, which has shrunk 14% between 2011-2016. This will reverse the trend and open the way for building a solid advanced manufacturing base in the ICT sector in India. The letter is to be found below:
Shri Anshu Prakash, IAS
Dept. of Telecommunications
Govt of India.
January 16, 2020
Dear Shri Anshu Prakash Ji
TEMA and SITARA welcome DoT and Niti Aayog’s initiative to involve indigenous companies in 5G trials. TEMA-SITARA have been making various submissions to Govt of India on 5G. Our outreach has been to the Hon’ble PM, the National Security Advisor (NSA) and NSCS and other stakeholders.
We would like to formally convey our views on developing national capability in 5G, thus laying the ground for 6G, the concept of which has already been patented in the United States by one of our distinguished members. We are also listing below the specific capabilities of TEMA-SITARA Member Companies in 5G technologies.
We wish to underline that the purpose of doing so, i.e., listing out the capabilities of SITARA /TEMA members, is to assist in drawing up a national strategy to fill required technology gaps indigenously. The intent of the proposed 5G Trials should not be for DoT to determine whether or not domestic Indian companies have the capability to offer 5G services. Indian companies have the capabilities and the nation cannot afford to jeopardise these. Toby Simon of Synergia Foundation had shared a heat-map (enclosed) which also clearly shows that Indian companies have 90% of the technological capabilities required to indigenously deploy 5G.
Our recommendations are as follows:
1. In view of the enormous national security risks of inducting foreign equipment in national ICT networks, Government must take the lead in supporting development of indigenous capabilities, guaranteeing national security, the nation’s economic future and technological capabilities.
2. We feel that Government would leave a lasting legacy, akin to India’s successful space and atomic energy programs, if it took up the 5G challenge as a national PPP project, something along the Mission-mode lines of the famous Manhattan Project (which led to the development of the 1st atomic bomb during WW-II). This is essential given the importance and urgency of the proposed trials. That approach would change the focus- and hence remove the perceived hesitation – from helping highly innovative yet fund-constrained Indian companies. We strongly urge DoT to view this as investing in a critical national project as part of a larger and more profound technology indigenization strategy. Like DARPA in USA, this investment into development of highly strategic indigenous technology will ensure India’s safety, security and technological development. It will also lay the foundation for a high-tech driven future for the benefit of the people of India.
3. We therefore urge Government to set up an organization patterned on DARPA or the Indian Space Research Organisation- for creating an indigenous 5G capability and ICT network. Both DARPA and ISRO have been very effective in delivering high technology goals. DARPA involves a Whole of Government-and-ecosystem approach. DARPA contracts projects to the Federal Funded R&D Centres (FFRDCs, which include genuinely recognizable institutions with proven records like Los Alamos, Lawrence Livermore etc.). ISRO has perfected the art of delivery of high-tech space capabilities on a shoe-string budget because of its flat organization, open exchange of ideas, and blue-sky thinking. Both are possible models to follow and the new entity for implementing 5G should also be headed by eminent technocrats with domain knowledge, like ISRO.
4. It is also recommended that funding for the technology development projects – which must be undertaken on mission-mode basis as mentioned earlier – must preferably be given directly to the entity rather than routed through academic institutions or bureaucracies. We need a dynamic and imaginative organization, one patterned on DARPA or ISRO, one capable of generating and implementing new ideas.
5. We also wish to place on record our deep reservations about seeking the advice of – and / or involving experts close to the Chinese Government in a vital project affecting national security. We believe this poses grave risks to India’s National Security. In this connection, we wish to underline that anyone with connections with the Chinese Government must be automatically excluded from any project of such national significance. The project has to be piloted by eminent technocrats dedicated to indigenisation.
6. We understand that funding this technology development effort would not be cheap. However, we strongly believe that funding could be given to this specially created entity involving security and defence forces, scientists, technocrats, industry and Government. USOF is one of the possible sources. We have learnt it has been used to fund a Japanese company. USOF could therefore also be used for indigenous technology development.
7. Deployment of 5G must not be rushed, especially since pressing and urgent “use-cases” are yet to be identified in India. Typical use-cases, such as large adoption of Industry 4.0, autonomous vehicles or remote surgery etc. has not yet emerged in India. Telcos are suffering from serious financial issues and are not in a position to either buy spectrum or uproot and reinstall fresh equipment in the near future. As far as the public is concerned, our firm belief is that the Indian consumers would be happy if at least 4G can be offered without interruption. 5G is suitable only for highly technologically advanced economies with 21st century level digitized/ intelligentised Industry. The so called “urgency” about 5G is exclusively based on hype created by foreign equipment vendors, especially Chinese entities who are blacklisted in Western Countries, who are only interested in dumping 5G equipment in India. At this point in time, India has neither the capacity to afford the investment required, nor the need, for this technology. Hence, we can afford to take a little more time to ensure our national and economic security concerns are fully addressed.
8. Securing ICT networks, particularly 5G ICT networks, is critical for national development and security. 5G enhances military lethality by a multiple of 10 vs. conventional weapons. Experts the world over recognise that 5G brings in additional vulnerabilities and US Govt reports state that 5G exponentially increases cybersecurity risks. A massive exercise in decoupling is going on in the United States to ensure security of critical infrastructure, as they seek to curtail their over-dependence on Chinese equipment. We must be wary of this trap from the beginning, keeping in mind that we can never be fully secure unless we source our hardware and software indigenously. We must also keep in mind that induction of Chinese equipment into our networks may not find support in the United States and some other countries.
9. India also needs to build 5G security into design rather than bolting it down as an after-thought. 5G security is different from 2G/3G/4G security. India has the cyber security eco-system which can be leveraged to build this capability and capacity, which will require additional investment.
10. India’s national priority is the development of indigenous capabilities for 5G deployment. You would agree, as the custodians of national interest and national welfare, that it is heartening that several Indian companies have 5G technologies despite the constraints they suffer. With the funding support expected following recent high-level decisions taken by GoI, it is possible to realise the dream of indigenous 5G deployment.
11. We must also guarantee business opportunities for our own companies, as no other country will help Indian companies. This will create massive multipliers for national benefit. The US has hurt the Chinese economy by denying markets. We are hurting ourselves by denying market opportunities to our own companies. Appropriate policies must be formulated so that induction of foreign and Chinese equipment in sensitive networks is not repeated. The Telecom Security Act, a ban on Chinese equipment in particular, and a modification of L1 for the benefit of indigenous companies must be implemented. We are glad that the Niti Aayog document has incorporated some of the suggestions we have made earlier in this regard.
12. While a consortium approach is favored, it must be understood that none of the major large Indian companies reportedly under consideration by GOI have 5G expertise, while several SMEs have. Given the history of licensed production and weak R&D of most of these large companies, they would also succumb to the temptation of inducting foreign components when Indian technologies are available. It would be better to have as a leader an entity that has actually developed these technologies. We have submitted a proposal for a Large-Scale Integrator (LSI) which could do the job better than some of the Companies under consideration. The excellent technological solutions developed by the constituent companies including a Battle Management System exported to Malaysia, have won admiration and respect abroad. At the very least, a company which has some experience in 5G, or is willing to commit funding, must be the lead entity from Industry’s side.
13. Last but not least, it must be acknowledged that some of the indigenous products are years ahead of their foreign competitors. In fact, leading foreign companies are signing non-disclosure agreements with Indian SMEs and sourcing products which they then sell at a premium back to us!
14. Following are the companies in alphabetical order with the capabilities. It is understood that Prof Kamakoti of IIT-Madras, has a longer list, and this can be obtained from him (companies like Sookta and perhaps VVDN for example). A heat map is enclosed although it does not cover security capability development. Most of the technologies are available in India and the map is over 90% Green. We rejoice and hope DOT and Niti Aayog also feel pride that Indian SMEs have mastered such a futuristic technology on their own.
INDIAN COMPANIES WITH 5G CAPACITIES
LEKHA WIRELESS CAPABILITIES
CEO: Sri Ramu T.S
Below is the description of Lekha’s product portfolio and PFA the company profile. Lekha has been in discussion with DoT for last 2 years for pilot trials opportunity for 4G products. They hope the new effort finds serious consideration from the concerned people.
Vyapi LTE eNodeB(4G) (Data sheet attached.) AVAILABLE IMMEDIATELY
Lekha is presently working with Indian Navy to setup 4G network on naval ships for tactical communications. They have achieved TRL8 (technology readiness level 8) maturity level. Lekha looks forward for any opportunity to deploy their 4G network along with Indian operators.
5G gNodeB reference design (Data sheet attached.)
Status: AVAILABLE FOR LAB INTER-OP WITH 3RD PARTY UE
1. Both HW and SW technologies are developed and owned by Lekha Wireless:
2. Lekha’s Wave5G solution which demonstrates fully featured 5G FR1 physical layer stack.
1. Data sheet for 5G NR UE L2 and L3 stack.
2. Videos of some of Lekha’s products in action at the link below. https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0ByJHuMA0z6tBVmM4SXM5MmJRU0U
Lekha has a deep investment in 5G NR technology.
On-going investment to develop 32T32R Massive MIMO RU.
Both HW and SW technologies are developed and owned by Lekha Wireless.
CEO: Sri Raghuveer BK
India’s indigenous Security architecture for 5G Networks would have to be based on Network traffic monitoring, AI/ML based Security Analytics and Traffic Visualization.
5G Backhaul & Core:
1. Nivetti can contribute significantly to building out the 5G IP and Cloud infrastructure as follows:
· Cell site routers
· Access and aggregation IP Routers
· Virtual IP Routers for Cloud Networking
· Data Centre Switching
· Ethernet Switches for the Network.
2. Security Architecture: Nivetti Security Architecture for 5G Networks.
3. Mobile Edge Computing: Nivetti has some emerging solutions in this space.
QUIK PROTO RESEARCH LABS
CEO: Dr Prem Chand
5G equipment security by the QuikProto Security Stack
1. Military Grade Secure Storage: The system has already been proven and inducted into Strategic Forces and has undergone evaluation at DRDO for 3 years.
2. Digital Rights Management Integrated with Work Flow: System already evaluated and being used by DRDO, Army and ISO (securing standards).
3. Hardware Enforced Security to Prevent Kernel Level Attacks: Demonstrable prototype has been developed and its customization for Mobile Phones, End-Point Appliances, Servers (cloud, data centre), Networking Components (Routers/Switches).
Under development for future deployment:
ICS/ SCADA Applications is underway.
Estimated: 18 to 20 months to complete.
The company is looking for funding assistance.
CEO: Sri Parag Naik
1. UHF based TVWS 4g boxes for rural broadband. These are being deployed all over the world in pilots. Roadmap exist to make these 5G ready
2. Chipsets for IoT, mobile TV receivers
3. Satellite IoT solutions
4. 5G broadcast which is an indigenous effort for broadband-broadcast convergence that is a value differentiation w.r.t standard 4G/5G .
5. Have built a Radio head for broadcast which is being deployed by operators in the US
Near to mid-term 5G Roadmap
SDR IP that be extended to support 5G receiver chipsets
5G Radio Units for Low band and mid band
ORAN based Radio Interface controller for network automation
Long term Roadmap
Prototype of 6G stack. IPR filed
Next generation Silicon DU platform that we are building in stealth mode
CEO: Sanjay Nayak
A document listing the capabilities is enclosed.
VNL has end to end technical competence to undertake development and deliver 5G Radio access node, transmission, SDR, core and other nodes of 5G. VNL have already indigenously developed and successfully commercialised end to end 2G and 4 G mobile systems in the Indian and global market.
Full documents regarding the capabilities on offer are enclosed.
We request DoT to identify and involve other Indian companies having 5G capabilities, which means those headquartered in India and owning their own IPR and not undertaking licensed production or systems integration only, which have these capabilities.
In conclusion, it is clear that there are multiple domestic Indian Companies which have several vital parts of the 5G technology puzzle. As we have said before and are reiterating here, the strategic and national security concerns about the 5G technology make it imperative that we actively support and encourage Indian Companies to develop this technology indigenously.
With kind regards, and looking forward to concrete progress on the deployment of indigenous 5G capabilities.
Prof N K Goyal Smita Purushottam
Chairman Emeritus TEMA Chairperson SITARA
PS to Hon’ble Prime Minister of India
Lt. Gen. Rajesh Pant, National Security Council Secretariat (NCSC)
Sh. Ajay Kumar, Defense Secretary, Ministry of Defense, Government of India, New Delhi
Sh. Ajay Sawhney, Secretary, MEITY
Dr. Guruprasad Mohapatra, Secretary, DPIIT
Sh. VK Saraswat, Member, Niti Aayog
May 18, 2020
Shri Narendra Modi Ji
Hon’ble Prime Minister,
Government of India
7, Lok Kalyan Marg, New Delhi
New Delhi – 110001 Monday, 18 May 2020
BSNL UNIONS’ PETITION TO ABANDON SELF-RELIANCE AND NATIONAL SECURITY IN SENSITIVE TELECOM NETWORKS
It has just come to our attention that BSNL Unions have petitioned the Government to disregard SITARA and TEPC’s request for domestic procurement in BSNL’s recent Tender Enquiry: MM/CM/GSM-Ph-IX/T-681/2020 dtd 23.03.2020. I am attaching the AUAB letter and SITARA’s earlier representation for ready reference.
This amounts to abandoning National Security and Self-Reliance, for which you have given a clarion call to the Nation and which we strongly and wholeheartedly support. SITARA, supported by TEMA (The Telecom Equipment Manufacturers’ Association of India), moreover robustly refutes the argument made in the AUAB letter that vested interests are promoting Self-Reliance and National Security, an oxymoron.
Domestic Capabilities: First of all, we wish to categorically state that Indian Industry has the capacity to meet the requirements in the tender. Indian companies have both Core and RAN, which DOT and BSNL are aware of. We are annexing a compilation of the advanced high-tech capabilities of Indian companies. We had also drawn Government’s kind attention to the 5G capabilities of Indian companies in the TEMA-SITARA joint letter (https://www.sitara.org.in/national-strategy-for-5g-deployment), with one Indian company even patenting its 6G concept in the United States, the most demanding of all markets. The Heat Map circulated at a Synergia meeting showing Indian firms have 5G know-how – is also enclosed. Our hearts swell with pride when we see the advances made by Indian Industry without any help from anyone, while just Huawei got US$75 billion from the Chinese Government, and we are sure Government shares this National pride. It would be the utmost folly to allow this world class capability built in the hope that we can erect a secure high-tech communications network for India go to waste.
National Security: Secondly, we are completely shocked that the AUAB letter debunks National Security – especially as Government of India under your Leadership is dedicated to guaranteeing National Security. With digitisation underlying both military and civil capabilities, security of Critical Infrastructure is as important as physical weaponry in the 21st century. Most countries include telecom networks in their definition of Critical Infrastructure. It is therefore essential that the actual networks carrying/ protecting the data be built by domestic telecom and cybersecurity equipment manufacturers. In some areas Indian companies are at least 10 years ahead of their foreign counterparts and it is only due to white branding that Indian products are not better known. Also, Information Warfare against India will increase exponentially with the induction of 5G networks built with foreign equipment. Deployment of indigenous products will ensure the security of our communications networks.
But it will be impossible for domestic companies to survive if they do not get the opportunity to build national networks now. Cutting out domestic companies from 4G is effectively surrendering our National Security IN PERPETUITY, which we are sure the Government, which has demonstrated its resolve to safeguard National Security, will not allow. We are sorry that BSNL Unions do not understand that giving wrong and motivated advice from the real vested interests – will result in a Himalayan Blunder even bigger than 1962. We are certain Government under your Leadership will see through the ruse and take action to ensure National Security.
In fact, we want all Service Providers to keep National Security in mind, due to the strategic importance of telecom networks, as all other countries do. To this end we are working to introduce a Telecom Security Act which like the US and Australian models, seeks to impose security obligations on all telecom service providers.
For example, in the Smart City, BharatNet, RailTel, Powergrid etc 1000s of crores are being spent on Telecom equipment. We are not aware of any single Smart City project that has been awarded to an Indian company, despite the availability of abundant talent and capabilities in the country. A simple search parameter on Google search (“filetype:pdf inurl:.in Gartner request for proposal”) yields the shocking information that practically all tenders contain the widely challenged (including in the US) and superfluous Magic Gartner Quadrant and other multi-country million-dollar certifications, designed to exclude Indian companies. It is critical for 4G / 5G Infrastructure to be secure, trusted and indigenous because 1.3 billion Indians will be dependent on Secure Telecom infrastructure. India cannot afford to put this Critical Infrastructure at risk by untrusted and insecure Telecom infrastructure.
We feel that the scope should be extended beyond BSNL to include all Govt-funded projects like BharatNet, USOF projects, Safe City, Defence, etc. and all Private Sector TSPs. If the campaign for Atma Nirbhar is to mean something, Government must ensure these are built with Indian equipment by companies and INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY OWNED by Indians, so that National Security is ensured and all profits, dividends and value creation is retained in India TO BENEFIT THE PEOPLE OF INDIA. But since BSNL is under the direct control of Government, we need to start with BSNL, and after that all projects funded by GOI. This will cut out the actual vested interests and import lobbies who benefit only themselves at the expense of the Nation, the Indian People and GOI.
3. Vested Interest vs Public Interest and Self Reliance: The letter absurdly alleges that those who are promoting National Security and advanced domestic high-tech capabilities represent vested interests, which is an oxymoron if ever there was one. They have forgotten that Hon’ble Prime Minister himself has led the Nation in promoting self-reliance. The letter denies that the tender excludes Indian companies even though it is a motivated tirade containing very insulting and false allegations running down domestic capabilities, indicating where the real vested interests are.
We reiterate that our only interest is Public Interest including National Security and the economic well-being of the Indian people, which the Government under your enlightened Leadership promotes. The Chinese Government fully backed their domestic companies and helped them become world class. Even the United States Government of a hyper-capitalist country – extended enormous help to US companies which led to the rise of the Aerospace industry, the Internet, GPS, the computer and semiconductor industry and several blockbuster breakthroughs in the drugs industry. In fact, even Apple borrowed technologies from Government-funded programs to make its smartphones. Many Governments of countries with market economies have supported domestic industry through Industrial Policy, the latest being Germany.
We are grateful to Hon’ble Prime Minister for emphasising Self-Reliance in his address to the Nation. Indeed, domestic public procurement, especially high-tech, high value goods, can on its own add 25-40% to domestic value, generate multiple employment avenues and make India a global telecom manufacturing hub on the basis of home-grown high-tech companies, the strongest and surest foundation for growth.
4. Denying opportunity in 4G is to give up our dreams for 5G and therefore terminally compromise India’s National Security and Economic Self-reliance: Finally, without indigenous deployment of 4G – we have to be prepared to give up indigenous 5G, even though having foreign 5G equipment will fundamentally compromise India’s National Security. Denying Indian companies a role today will play into the hands of Chinese suppliers who are sure to underbid Indian companies. It is equally unacceptable if the bulk of the Order is given to any other foreign company.
BSNL has involuntarily confirmed our worst fears that we cannot build indigenous 5G without building indigenous 4G – by using the legacy argument to award fresh contracts to ZTE and Nokia for upgrading 2G/3G (https://telecom.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/bsnl-approves-2g-3g-network-upgrade-contract-to-zte-nokia-for-fastest-4g-rollout/75576363). These have been awarded without tendering.
5. Putting Chinese interests above the Deaths of 1000s & Displacement of millions due to Chinese Coronavirus: This is all the more shocking as the country (and the world) is reeling from the Chinese coronavirus. Some say this virus was engineered, which places BSNL’s actions in an even more deplorable light. As thousands of Indian citizens die an extremely painful death and the economy stalls, BSNL has gone behind the backs of policy makers and quietly rewarded China. I leave it to the Indian Public and GOI to label this action for what it is, which constitutes at the very least duplicity regarding National Interest and Hon’ble Prime Minister’s call for self-reliance. Government must ensure this and similar contracts are cancelled to uphold the principle of Self-Reliance and ensure China does not profit despite contributing to unleashing a terrible disease on the Indian people (and the world).
6. But with the current mindset, the main hindrances to Indian companies are:
They get zero orders as all service providers accept the better financing conditions of foreign equipment providers (FOEMs) even if the Indian company has won L1 on quality and cost, and as for BSNL tenders – Chinese companies have ruthlessly underbid in order to cut Indian companies out of the market. This is a practice Chinese companies follow globally.
Even if Indian companies get orders, they are not paid their dues. Letter from PHD Chamber attached.
It thus becomes a circular argument – first deny Indian companies orders and don’t pay them, then use that to say they do not have experience.
It is essential to break this vicious cycle if we want to create a prosperous and advanced India.
In conclusion, the point of having a public sector company is that it should serve the Public and National Interest, which is in having domestic high value-added creation in India. Even the AUAB letter acknowledges “the strategic importance of BSNL”. Our Ministries, in this case DOT, have responsibility in ensuring national security and economic progress. BSNL should be mandated to ensure healthy Indian entity participation. Indian industry must get at least 70% of the work in both Core and Ran. We cannot afford to miss the bus for 4G which will lay the ground for domestic deployment of 5G. DOT/ GOI/BSNL as public bodies must do everything to ensure that India Industry benefits from the BSNL order.
Finally, Government’s own orders on PPP MII must be followed in all procurements. Almost daily we get news of some Government department or the other flouting these orders. Greater vigilance is required to ensure India does not remain an impoverished, low-tech nation.
With respectful regards,
Shri Ravi Shankar Prasad, Hon’ble Minister of Communications, Sanchar Bhawan, New Delhi- 110001
Shri Piyush Goyal, Minister of Commerce and Industry, Udyog Bhawan, New Delhi 110 107
Dr. P. K. Mishra, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, South Block, New Delhi – 110011
Shri Rajiv Gauba, Cabinet Secretary, Rashtrapati Bhawan, New Delhi,110004
Shri Anshu Prakash, Secretary, Telecom, Sanchar Bhawan, New Delhi- 110001
Dr. Anup Wadhawan, Secretary, Commerce and Industry, Udyog Bhawan, New Delhi – 110 10
4th of July, 2020:
SITARA wrote a letter to Hon’ble Power Minister with a copy to related Government Departments & PMO – welcoming his announcement that power equipment from China would henceforth be banned and domestic equipment used instead. We respectfully requested that telecom tenders awarded by PGCIL/ Powertel to Chinese companies exclusively should also be included in the ban, as the real danger lay in China’s physical possession of these sensitive assets. The dangers posed by Chinese equipment in sensitive networks/ critical infrastructure were acknowledged by Hon’ble Minister and are also described in the article by Shreya Jai. Letter begins:
The Science, Indigenous Technology & Advanced Research Accelerator
Shri Raj Kumar Singh
Hon’ble Minister of State for Power (Independent Charge)
Ministry of Power
Shram Shakti Bhawan
Saturday, July 4, 2020
On behalf of SITARA, the Science, Indigenous Technology & Advanced Research Accelerator, a Trust dedicated to make India a scientifically and technologically advanced Nation, we laud your decision to stop imports of Chinese power equipment. Apart from the clear and grave security risks arising from such imports, we are happy that you also emphasised the need for domestic procurement so that the Indian economy can grow and high-tech, high value jobs can be created at home. We sincerely appreciate your decision which will uphold both National & Economic Security.
In this connection, we also wish to point out that Chinese ownership of Indian communications networks, particularly those tendered by “Powertel” [of the Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd (PGCIL)], also poses a critical danger to our country. India’s power-grid is part of its Critical Infrastructure and is particularly vulnerable to remote shut-down by hostile powers. We also hear that the PowerGrid Telecom Network is being used by various Government agencies like NIC, Intelligence Bureau (IB), DRDO, NKN etc., so the security risks to sensitive communications are clear.
Despite this, we have learnt that PGCIL has once again awarded a sensitive tender – Telecom Equipment (DWDM) Package-U under Augmentation of Telecom Backbone and Access Network; Specification No: CC-CS/842-SR2/TELE-3791/3/G6- to a Chinese company – FiberHome. It may kindly be noted that bids by the Chinese companies FiberHome (reportedly Rs 153 cr) and ZTE (Rs. 211) were significantly below Power Grid’s budgeted estimate of Rs 270 crores and indicated massive predatory pricing and hidden Chinese State support for taking over another sensitive Indian Government network. PGCIL may not be expected to understand the security risks involved, as the enclosed article suggests, but there is no doubt that we are opening ourselves to enormous security risks by awarding sensitive communications tenders to Chinese companies.
Chinese companies have systematically bid for sensitive Government networks over the past few years. Chinese companies win tenders the world over through ruthless underbidding and other allegedly unethical practices. This is because in a digitized age, China understands the strategic value of control over a country’s ICT networks, which gives it unparalleled power over data flows and physical grids, which can be shut down or sabotaged remotely with full deniability. It is not just via insertion of malware and Trojan horses in telecom and networking equipment that can trigger electricity grid failures to cripple economic activity, this can also be achieved through physical control of the networks, which China has been given. So it is China’s physical control over our networks which has to be ended, as other countries are doing around the world. This is in accordance with their Information Warfare doctrine which is at the core of Chinese military strategy. As you have pointed out, China can indeed shut down our ICT networks remotely.
We have been requesting Government to apply national security and economic security criteria in tendering procedures, and we are heartened to know that this is being considered. Two of our communications to Hon’ble PM and NSCS are enclosed. The recent surprise Chinese attack on our steadfast and brave troops has completely vindicated our repeated warnings not to trust equipment from our adversary and develop our own domestic capabilities.
We thus hope that the ban on Chinese power equipment imports will also include any Chinese telecom equipment used in PowerGrid’s and Powertel’s network such as in this tender [Telecom Equipment (DWDM) Package-U under Augmentation of Telecom Backbone and Access Network; Specification No: CC-CS/842-SR2/TELE-3791/3/G6]. In fact, the tender itself should be fully disallowable on National Security Grounds.
China’s predatory tactics have driven Indian companies out of their own market – India – and weakened our nation as our companies go out of business, rendering us severely import dependent. Hon’ble PM has called for rectifying this vulnerability and your decision is a big step in that direction. We therefore request you to please authorize a thorough security audit of Power Grid’s networks, given the proven hostility demonstrated by China, and removal of Chinese equipment from them. We have learnt that PGCIL has given earlier tenders to Chinese companies and these should also be reviewed.
After the cyber-attack on a nuclear power facility and the death of / sacrifice by our soldiers, Government cannot afford to wait anymore to neutralise the gathering risk arising from Chinese physical control of our networks. A whole of Government united approach is required to deal with the Chinese threat.
With respectful regards,