Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd said it is willing to sign a “no back door” pact with the Indian government to assuage potential security concerns.
The statement from Huawei comes against the backdrop of the Chinese telecom major battling intense pressure from the US, which is pushing allies to ban the company from 5G networks on suspicions of espionage.
The company hopes the measure would help assure the Indian government about any cybersecurity breach that could arise at the vendor’s end. A “back door” is a point of access in a network/equipment that guarantees entry into the network/equipment under exceptional circumstances. In its absence, the equipment supplier would not be able to access the customer’s network without consent.
“I am ready to sign a ‘no back door’ agreement with my customers (telcos) and the Indian government today,” Jay Chen, chief executive officer of Huawei India, said in an interview.
“I would like to propose this to all original equipment manufacturers that let’s sign this agreement with customers (telcos) and the government for network security compliance… to give trust and confidence to the government on security concerns,” said Chen.
Huawei’s proposal comes a day before US secretary of state Mike Pompeo’s visit to New Delhi. Various issues, including Huawei’s participation in 5G roll-outs, are expected to figure in discussions between Pompeo and Indian government officials during his visit from 25-27 June.
Since last year, the US has incessantly pressed its allies to ban Huawei from 5G roll-outs on the suspicion that the Chinese government used the company as a vehicle for spying, an allegation the company has always denied.
Australia and Japan have barred Huawei, while Canada and New Zealand are likely to follow suit.
“We should appreciate Donald Trump and the US government for making Huawei too popular,” Chen said, tongue-in-cheek.
However, many countries in Europe are still to take a decision, while Russia, Turkey and Saudi Arabia have welcomed Huawei. India is yet to take a decision on whether to permit Huawei in 5G roll-outs.
Earlier this month, telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had said the government would take “a firm view” on Huawei’s participation. On Thursday, telecom secretary Aruna Sundararajan said her ministry was expecting a recommendation from a committee examining Huawei’s 5G participation.
Earlier this month, India’s department of telecommunications (DoT) began the process for 5G roll-outs by seeking a comprehensive review of the sector regulator’s recommendations on the upcoming spectrum auctions of 5G, the next-generation technology for wireless communications that is expected to improve data speed and propel Internet of Things.
India has also approved a one-year 5G trial period and a one-time fee of ₹5,000 for entities seeking experimental spectrum to conduct trials. It has, however, not stated explicitly whether it will allow Huawei to participate in the trials as DoT awaits a recommendation from the committee examining security risks arising out of Huawei’s presence in 5G networks.
An emailed query seeking DoT’s response on Huawei’s proposal for a “no back-door agreement” was unanswered till press time.
Even as India takes time to make up its mind about Huawei’s presence in 5G roll-outs in the country, the company has called for a collaborative mindset.
“India is staring at the next 10 years, which is going to be a golden decade for the country,” Chen said. “It’s very hard to imagine that a country like India, with a 1.3 billion population, can only partner with a few countries in the world to achieve massive growth… it’s not possible. The fundamental factor for India to achieve growth is openness and cooperation.”
Under its national digital communications policy approved by the cabinet in September, India aims to attract $100 billion in investments by 2022 and create four million jobs in the sector.
“Currently, the world is becoming a mess. But one country can still select its right path,” said Chen.