October 15, 2004Economy

Greater FDI in telecom vs national security

Time and tide wait for no one, not even intelligence agencies

This is an archived blog post from The Acorn.

News Insight sounds downright absurd when it contends that modernisation of the telecommunications networks must be held back because India’s intelligence agencies are unable to perform their surveillance work.

All three agencies have their individual blindspots. RAW’s is broadband. With broadband coming, officers say, the situation could conceivably slip out of hand, and that would require unthinkable levels of modernisation to combat. The IB, on the other hand, has its own peculiar set of worries. For example, IB and other agencies have zeroed down on at least four foreign missions that are making secret illegal transmissions outside allotted bandwidths and frequencies. Neither are the used frequencies easily detectable, because transmissions are of very short duration, the standard wireless operator’s trick to escape detection, nor are the contents becoming known from other sources. Because of security reasons, officers refuse to identify the missions, but they have neither the staff, not the funds and facilities, to do the required twenty-four-hour monitoring. [News Insight]

The numerous threats to India’s national security make the intelligence agencies’ job demanding, but preventing the deployment and adoption of modern technologies does a greater damage to the country they are charged to protect — both in economic terms and also politically. Disaffected citizens in insurgency hit states were previously denied cellular telephone networks, a move that missed the forest for the trees.

Similarly, opposing greater foreign investment in telecoms because of fears of foreign ownership of networks is equally fatuous. The concerns raised by the intelligence agencies can easily be addressed by sensible policies and modernisation of their skills and equipment. Banning all road traffic to prevent car accidents has never been a good idea.



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