RAW Wants Extra Checks on ILD Gateway Operators
DoT opposes proposal, finds no logic behind the need to conduct background checks on these cos
The Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) has asked the telecom department to seek the approval of national security agencies before granting provisional permission to install and operate gateways for international long-distance (ILD) services, a proposal that the department has called unnecessary. According to an internal note seen by ET, RAW has said agencies such as it and the Intelligence Bureau (IB) should be allowed to conduct thorough background checks of the companies that want to set up ILD gateways and their promoters, as well as study the ramifica- tions of such projects on national security. The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has opposed this proposal, saying there was no logic behind the need to conduct background checks on a company every time it sets up a gateway. At present, for getting the final approval, operators of ILD gateways need to demonstrate the capabilities that they have set up for intelligence agencies to lawfully monitor voice and data traffic and intercept what is necessary. DoT informs these agencies about the provisional approvals it grants. But, according to RAW, security agencies are not consulted for conducting background checks on the companies before they gain access to India’s telecom networks. ILD companies are either front companies for major telecom operators who may have a foreign stake, or the operators may sell a part of their stake to foreign or domestic investors, which makes the security implications significant, the agency said. According to it, small ILD operators work for one or the other major carriers, and this helps the carriers provide international long-distance facilities while avoiding responsibility and penalty in case of any violation.
According to DoT, over 49% FDI in such cos is granted by FIPB after due procedure
According to DoT, foreign direct investment of more than 49% in such companies is granted by the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) after due procedure. This takes care of the requirement of security agencies, it said.
In addition, the final approval is given only after such companies set up lawful interception and monitoring capabilities, which are approved by security agencies. This process is the same for all companies, Indian and foreign. DoT has further argued that ILD operators set up gateways, according to operational needs and “it will not be logical to do background checks of a company again and again”.