NEWDELHI (Reuters) – A Hindu nationalist group close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party has stepped up criticism of Chinese telecom equipment makers, warning that their presence in India posed “an unacceptable security risk”.
The economic wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has been campaigning to keep Chinese telecom equipment maker Huawei Technologies out of India’s plans to install the next-generation 5G cellular network.
But now it is extending the campaign to other Chinese telecom equipment makers.
“India must recognise the full extent of the national and economic security threat posed by foreign and especially Chinese equipment in India’s ICT (information and communication technology) networks,” said Ashwani Mahajan, who heads economic wing of the RSS, known as Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM), in a statement on Sunday.
“China today controls a significant section of India’s telecom networks even though information dominance is at the core of China’s military strategy, posing an unacceptable security risk,” Mahajan said.
Huawei is at the centre of a tug-of-war between China and the United States. U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration put the company on a blacklist in May, citing national security concerns.
The RSS’s economic wing has had significant influence on Indian government investment policy in the past year, especially in getting new regulations in place to protect small traders from U.S. owned e-commerce companies Amazon.com Inc <AMZN.O> and Walmart’s <WMT.N> Flipkart.
China is India’s second biggest trading partner. Chinese products – from mobile phones made by companies such as Xiaomi Corp <1810.HK> to televisions and air conditioners – are ubiquitous in India.
In October, Modi will host Chinese President Xi Jinping in the sacred Hindu city of Varanasi, his parliamentary constituency in northern India, where the two are expected to address trade issues including India’s concerns about its $53 billion trade deficit with China in the year to March 2019.
Mahajan said earlier this month that India was unlikely to sign a China-backed Asia-Pacific trade pact because of opposition from industry and farmers, in a blow to prospects for creating a giant free trade zone.
(Reporting by Neha Dasgupta and Nidhi Verma; Edited by Martin Howell and Jane Merriman)