India may have to review its decision to ignore a US warning of Huawei's national security risk because reports have emerged that Chinese telecom equipment maker has close links with the Chinese military and intelligence agencies. The Chinese telecom giant, which is the global leader in 5G technology that could take part in trials for the next generation technology in mobile telephony in India. Many employees working with Huawei were involved in several military and intelligence projects, according to reports.
Huawei workers teamed with members of various organs of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) on at least 10 research projects spanning artificial intelligence to radio communications, a Bloomberg report says. The projects include a joint effort with the investigative branch of the Central Military Commission – the apex armed forces' supreme body – to extract and classify emotions in online video comments, and one with the elite National University of Defense Technology to explore ways of collecting and analysing geographical coordinates from satellite imagery.
The report says the projects cited are only a few of the publicly disclosed studies that shed light on how Huawei staff teamed up with the PLA on research into an array of potential military and security applications.
US President Donald Trump has blacklisted Huawei over alleged national security concerns and urged allies and friendly governments to review their use of technology and equipment from Huawei. Washington has also threatened national governments and global companies of blacklisting if they supplied Huawei and its associates any US-origin technology or equipment. Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government has been monitoring developments related to Huawei closely.
Telecommunication Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has said the government had not decided to ban Huawei from the 5G technology trials set to begin soon. While New Delhi knows that the task of taking the technology to the rural hinterland will be difficult without global leader Huawei's involvement, it may have to take a fresh look at the extent of the telecom giant's participation in the programme.
Though European players Ericsson and Nokia, and Samsung of South Korea also provide 5G technology, they reportedly lag Huawei. Industry observers are also closely watching Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman's Union Budget 2019 to see whether Modi 2.0 will have a more liberal approach to telecommunication technology and products. Huawei has offered New Delhi a "no-backdoor guarantee" to allay security fears.
Papers from published periodicals and online research databases showed that authors of the treatises, which had not been reported in the media previously, identified themselves as Huawei employees, according to the report. Huawei has denied knowledge of its employees publishing research papers in their individual capacity, according to the report.
"Huawei does not have any R&D collaboration or partnerships with the PLA-affiliated institutions," Huawei spokesman Glenn Schloss said in a statement. "Huawei only develops and produces communications products that conform to civil standards worldwide, and does not customize R&D products for the military," the report quotes Huawei.
The global telecom industry is watching whether the Huawei issue will come up during Prime Minister Modi's meetings with President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping during the G-20 Summit in Japan.