Feature Article

After Hambantota ‘clean-up’, US-India alliance expects Gotabaya to reconsider China’s ICT

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 24 December 2019, 23:48 GMT]
After getting ‘US-citizen’ Gotabaya Rajapaksa to sort out Hambantota port-related security concerns of the Quad partners, the US-India strategic partnership is aiming to contain what it considers as a risky cybersecurity infrastructure in India’s backyard. The US-India alliance is posed to ‘discipline’ the SL State to abandon or phase out China’s information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure in the island, a highly-placed Tamil source within the mobile technology sector in Colombo told TamilNet this week. India’s Minister of Defence Rajnath Singh is holding the stick, and Gotabaya Rajapaksa will be under pressure to deliver in favour of US-preferred ICT to be favoured instead of China’s ICT in the island, the source further revealed.

Last week, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo went on record stating that the US and Indian foreign and defence ministers, who met in Washington DC for their second 2+2 ministerial dialogue meeting had talked about the “risks that Chinese-built communication networks, including 5G, pose to our treasured freedoms and how China’s unfair and predatory economic activity in the Indo-Pacific presents a risk to those very freedoms.” Mr Pompeo was previously the director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

“During the meeting, we shared our assessments of the situation in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and the Indian Ocean region in general,” Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh was quoted as saying, according to the transcript, released by India’s Ministry of External Affairs.

Already, a cold-war is raging between the USA and China on 5G technology across the world.

5G is the next-generation technology for high-speed wireless communications, enabling new advances such as the Internet of Things (IoT) into reality.

Huawei, a leading ICT provider from China, is facing business challenges in Canada and Europe following the US and NATO almost making it a policy not to use the Chinese company for critical ICT infrastructure in the alliance.

“NATO and Allies, within their respective authority, are committed to ensuring the security of our communications, including 5G, recognising the need to rely on secure and resilient systems,” said the recent London Declaration made by 29 leaders of NATO member states on 03-04 December 2019.

On Tuesday, UK-based and Japanese-owned Financial Times cited US National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien as warning UK not to allow Huawei into its 5G telecommunications networks.

“It is somewhat shocking to us that folks in the UK would look at Huawei as some sort of a commercial decision. 5G is a national security decision,” the paper quoted him as saying.

Huawei has signed an MoU with the SL Government and is having four focus areas at the moment: investment in knowledge transfer and human capital development; roll out latest technologies such as 5G, IOT, AI and Cloud to help widespread digital transformation; share and facilitate global expertise for ICT development; and offer Smart City solutions.

In the meantime, India was prioritising South Korea's Samsung, Finnish Nokia and Swedish Ericsson over Chian's ZTE and Huawei to implement its 5G infrastructure.

According to NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg, China has become a global leader not only in 5G infrastructure, but also from facial recognition to quantum computing, which he described as “disruptive technologies”.

Some excerpts from a keynote address by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the NATO Industry Forum, Washington D.C. on 14 November 2019, follow:

“More than ever before we see that the latest and most advanced technologies come from countries that are outside of the NATO Alliance.

“Notably, from China. China is now the world’s second largest economy and the second largest spender on defence. It is modernizing its military. We all saw the advanced intercontinental nuclear missiles it paraded through the streets of Beijing recently. As well as new supersonic cruise missile, an assortment of new drones, anti-ship missiles and hypersonic gliders.

“But China is also becoming a global leader in the development of other disruptive technologies. From facial recognition to quantum computing. And it is able to gather vast amounts of data not only from China, but from around the world, including from NATO Allied countries.

“Technology is changing warfare, but also our societies. Recent developments in 5G technology are a pertinent example. The ‘Internet-of-Things’, connecting the physical world to the internet, depends on 5G. This will impact every aspect of our societies. Transportation, energy, food, health, manufacturing. It provides enormous opportunities. But it can also make us more vulnerable. That is why ensuring the security of our 5G infrastructure is so crucial.

“Last month, at the NATO Defence Ministerial meeting, we agreed to update our baseline requirements for civilian telecommunications, including 5G. This is not about a specific country or a specific company. But it does mean that all Allies will have to take into account the need for thorough risk and vulnerability assessments. Identifying and countering cyber threats. And the consequences of foreign ownership, control or direct investment. To increase the resilience of our supply chains. And the resilience of our nations and our Alliance.”

* * *

China has stepped up Hambantota propaganda through its media outlets. “A master plan for developing industries around the Hambantota Port, undertaken by an international group of companies, has almost been finalized,” said Xinhua in a feature article on Tuesday. It was citing the Sinhala Chief Executive Officer of Hambantota International Port Services., which is a joint-venture between the China Merchants Port Holdings (CMPH) and the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA).

The feature also carried a video promotion, showcasing Hambantota as busy port, projecting shipment of products from India.

Meanwhile, Gotabaya Rajapaksa is yet to assure Indian inroads into Hambantota as has gone on record stating there was no discussions on Mattala airport at the moment.

“Modi’s charm offensive following Gotabaya’s thumping election victory in November has fallen flat,” wrote former Indian Foreign Service diplomat M.K. Bhadrakumar M.K. Bhadrakumar in his Indian Punchline blog on Friday.

The Indian analyst was disappointed to see that Gotabaya was still not prepared to allow India's entry to Mattala airport.

“Gotabaya doesn’t seem to be overawed by the $450 credit line. In reality, Gotabaya may even have turned the table by launching a charm offensive of his own to insist on Modi being his first state guest in Colombo,” Mr Bhadrakumar observed adding that Beijing was poised to “hit back at India where it hurts.”

However, Tamil commentators in Jaffna observed Gotabaya was only attempting to show that he is treading a fine line between the bipolar formations of the geopolitical landscape. In practice, Gotabaya intends to deliver military access to US-India after securing more trade and infrastructure concessions and emerge as a better bargainer than Ranil Wickramasinghe, they said.

“It is not the China-card, but Quad-card that gets played now,” a commentator who didn't wish to be named told TamilNet.

External Links:
Defense News: ‘Trojan Horse’: Trump’s national security advisor warns Canada against Huawei’s 5G
CBC: Canada warned of fallout on Five Eyes relationship if Huawei allowed on 5G
ComSoc Technology Blog: Dialog Axiata launches mobile 5G pilot network in Sri Lanka
The Diplomat: Under Pressure in the West, Huawei Looks to South Asia
Financial Times: US warns Boris Johnson over Huawei risks to UK citizens’ secrets
Xinhua: Xinhua Headlines: Outlook positive as Hambantota Port grows with opportunities for Sri Lankans
SLT Mobitel: Mobitel 5G Becomes the First and Fastest in South Asia!
NATO: Keynote address by NATO Secretary General in Washington D.C.
Inc42: Huawei Asks Govt Why It Should Invest In India If Barred From 5G Infrastructure
South China Morning Post: Danger of escalating US-China conflict is heightened by advances in AI and quantum computing
NATO: London Declaration
Indian Punchline: Rajapaksa’s ‘nyet’ on Mattala is a bitter pill to swallow
Indian Ministry of External Affairs: Transcript of Press Statements at India - US 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue , Washington DC on 18 December 2019



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