Recently ministry of information and communication technology introduced the concept of preferential market access (PMA) for Indian telecom equipments. The ministry also tried to justify its decision amid growing apprehension of violation of international treaty obligations. Although international treaty obligations cannot override Indian sovereignty yet the PMO has decided to play safe this time.
The ministry of information and communication technology has linked domestic manufacturing of electronic equipment (including telecom) to national security. There is nothing wrong in this approach but while doing so India must reconcile civil liberties and national security requirements. Further, the telecom security policy of India and cyber security policy of India must also be formulated and implemented to take care of national security aspects.
Presently, the PMA policy mandates that all public and private sector companies are required to use 50-100% domestically manufactured equipment or face penalties. The PMO does not agree with this criterion and has pointed out flaws in such a policy. It is especially skeptical with the correlation between domestic manufacturing and national security.
However, national security criterion is not a baseless criterion. For instance, the U.S. house intelligence committee is investigating Huawei cyber espionage angle. The cyber security concerns excluded Huawei from Australian broadband project. The allegations of e-surveillance by ZTE in Iran are also there. In fact, telecom security is so important for India that a telecom security directorate of India has been proposed. Even cyber security awareness brochures have been mooted by Indian government.
On the other hand, the PMO has pointed out that restricting import of foreign equipment will mean restricting free trade between nations – something that would hurt investor confidence – and thereby hurt India’s economy at a time where investor confidence in the telecom sector is already rock-bottom.
It has also cited the burden on telecom operators in being forced to buy more expensive domestic equipment, which may be of inferior quality, as well as the additional expenditure on setting up new testing standards for domestic equipment.
This is a complicated techno legal aspect that cannot be discussed in a casual manner. A well reasoned decision must be reached in this regard. We at Perry4Law Organisation and Perry4Law’s Techno Legal Base (PTLB) welcome the move of PMO to analyse the situation in a holistic and techno legal manner.