Indian military intelligence agencies have issued an advisory against the use of commercially available Chinese mobile phones by Indian troops amid the ongoing standoff between India and China on the Line of Actual Control. The advisory requests troops and formations in the area to exercise caution and switch to other phones, according to sources privy to the development. The list of banned phones includes well-known Chinese mobile brands in the Indian market such as OnePlus, OPPO, and Realme, among 11 others, according to a document accessed by media.
The advisory also asks to “discourage individuals and families" from purchasing or using mobile phones originating from countries “hostile to India." As per a senior officer aware of the development, “this is not the first time when such advisory was drafted but it has not been circulated yet as was intended to. The message is always clear. Everyone knows the intentions of China and the risk involved in using mobile phones of that origin."
The issue of data breaches and risks related to the use of Chinese mobile apps and phones was first highlighted in 2020. After the Galwan valley clash, the Government of India banned several Chinese mobile apps, but the risk is not limited to apps. Many experts pointed out the risks associated with these phones, which could be used for espionage or to collect sensitive information.
Another senior officer said that these advisories are not just normal advisories for jawans deployed in forward areas. “One should not trust a country like China that has an overambitious plan of expansion and that has tried hard to change the status quo alongside the LAC in the last few years. These devices can lead to the location of our troops and deployments, and hence, the agencies are cautious. We have taken several steps in the past too," they said.
Defence agencies have recommended that all units switch to other phones or make a switch against the mobile phones mentioned in the completion report by March 30, 2023.
The advisory highlights the risks associated with using Chinese-made mobile phones, which could potentially be used for espionage or data breaches. It is a warning that should be taken seriously, particularly given the ongoing standoff between India and China on the Line of Actual Control. The move also reflects growing concerns in India about the potential risks posed by Chinese technology, particularly in sensitive areas such as defence and national security. The advisory is a timely reminder that India must be vigilant about the risks posed by foreign technology and take steps to protect its interests.