An exercise to minimise the role of power and telecom companies believed to be linked to the Chinese government could be expanded to cover other critical sectors such as higher education as well, people familiar with the development said after a July 15 review of the penetration of such companies and institutions in the Indian economy.
The high-level meeting attended by national security planners and a select group of secretary-level officials comes against the backdrop of theChinese army’s aggressivemoves along the Line of Actual Control that led to a stand-off from May this year. The two sides earlier this month started disengaging at the face-off points in eastern Ladakh after several rounds of talks but Beijing has been slow to pull back its troops.
Last week’s exercise was aimed at coming up with a comprehensive assessment of the footprint of Chinese companies and institutions that could be a proxy for the Chinese government or have close ties to the ruling communist party. “The initiative was driven by the top political leadership,” a government official said.
Much of the discussion at the meeting revolved around a presentation made by security agencies that put the spotlight on two core areas; telecom and higher education.
Security officials who briefed the top civil servants spoke about several instances of universities and colleges tying up with Chinese institutes through Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) without the requisite approvals.
A classic example cited by the security establishment was the Chinese-government funded Confucius Institutes to promote Han Chinese language and culture – typicality set up in association with a local partner institution.
In the telecom sector, security agencies pointed to the telecom department’s instructions to state-run phone company Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited, BSNL, to amend its tender to exclude Chinese equipment makers from a large 4G upgrade project.
But private phone companies often prefer Chinese equipment because they are cheaper. There have also been allegations that large tenders are tailored to suit Chinese companies. Industry body COAI had last month