India caught between US and China over Huawei gear

India caught between US and China over Huawei gear

India is the latest market to come under pressure from the US to drop Huawei’s equipment from its 5G network buildouts.

Speaking in Delhi for the India Economic Summit, US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross asserted that Huawei would be able to use “backdoors” for spying and theft of personal data if India used the vendor’s equipment to build its national infrastructure.

“Anybody who thinks we are doing this for protectionism simply doesn’t know the facts. We hope that our geopolitical partner India does not inadvertently subject itself to untoward security risk”, said Ross.

However, Ross’s comments were not universally welcomed, with Bharti Enterprises chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal saying: “The US advisory is well taken from our point of view. But Indians will have to decide for themselves, given their relationship with China and the larger context.”

Mittal’s company is India’s largest provider of telecoms services, and – in keeping with its major local rival Vodafone - uses equipment from Huawei in its networks. The government of China in August cautioned India not to freeze out Chinese vendors, on pain of having Indian firms suffer the same fate in China.

China and the US are embroiled in an ongoing trade war, with each side imposing billion-dollar tariffs on imports from the other. Washington has called for its allies to spurn Huawei’s equipment in their 5G network deployments, and has accused the company of fraud, IP theft, and unfair trading. India in particular is seen as a geographically strategic ally to the US as it is the world’s second largest telecom market after China, and something of a rival powerhouse in the region.

India is planning to hold auctions for 5G spectrum either this year or early next year.

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