Dont rely on equipment supplied by vendors from single country: Panel

Written by Anandita Singh Mankotia | New Delhi | Updated: Sep 21 2012, 06:19am hrs
An expert group set up by the cabinet secretariat on developing a national information infrastructure for the government has proposed that the government reduce its dependence on equipment supplied by vendors from a single country. The move will impact the businesses of Chinese vendors Huawei and ZTE, who, owing to their price competitiveness, recently began to dominate the Indian equipment market.

The group of experts comprising representatives from the ministry of defence, ministry of earth sciences, department of technology, department of atomic energy , department of space, Intelligence Bureau, research and analysis wing, National Technical Research Organisations and the department of expenditure, has identified 12 critical ministries and departments, which procure sensitive equipment from overseas who need to implement these recommendations.

Interestingly, the recommendations suggest setting up of an agency which would identify technology start-ups across the globe and acquire them to facilitate in-house technology development.

Meanwhile, an expert group constituted by department of science and technology has identified Bharat Electronics (BEL) as an agency, which could carry out this work for the government until a long term mechanism is established.

Most of the sensitive equipment, including radar and telecom infrastructure equipment, are not currently manufactured by a single source or country. In many sensitive equipment, critical sub systems are manufactured/ designed by small start-ups. A careful study must be carried out to locate such start-ups and acquire them. This will be economically attractive than technology transfer and would also open the doors to international markets, the report submitted by the department of science and technology explains.

Further, in order to protect even the private information networks in the country the group has further suggested the setting up of a mechanism similar to that in the US, and Russia which would test all imported equipment and would continue to keep monitoring them to ensure they are free from any malware of spyware. This mechanism would adopt testing measures in line with global testing standards.

Meanwhile, each ministry has been suggested to develop its own internal security policy in consultation with the ministry of home affairs.

Highlighting that the measures spelt out could become inconsistent with the WTO agreements, and other international obligations, the group has cautioned that the country of origin exception shouldn't be invoked in the case of trade in goods and services.

Nevertheless, security related provisions might be invoked on grounds of national security to place an embargo on products originating from certain countries and the manner of placing embargo should be determined in consultation with the ministry of commerce and industry.