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SOURCE: SUNDAY GUARDIAN LIVE

Officials from the Department of Telecom (DoT) ignored the concerns voiced by security agencies about Chinese telecom companies, and kept going on “training” courses to Shanghai, China until as recently as November 2019. The “study” tours were sponsored by the East China Institute of Telecommunications, China Academy of Information and Communications Technology (CAICT).

These training courses/fellowships also involved spending time with executives from Huawei and learning “vital” issues related to 5G from them. CAICT is a think-tank which was founded in 1957 and is under the control of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, China. These training courses are often described as “junkets” by veteran ministry officials and are used by the sponsoring organisations and companies to influence policymakers in giving them a favourable response in their home country.

One such training tour-cum-fellowship was organised in November 2019 in which officials from the Department of Telecommunications, Government of India, were taken to Shanghai for a 10-day tour. The training course was on “Artificial Intelligence and Big Data Analytics” and was open only to those under the age of 45 years.

Those who played a key role in shortlisting the people who would come to Shanghai included Yonghong Zhao, Director General, Department of International Cooperation, Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), and Guolei Cai, Deputy Director, Department of International Cooperation, Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT).

The guests were put up at the posh Juss Hengshan Hotel in Shanghai.

A similar 10-day training course took place in November 2018, and included two days of “cultural investigation” in Shanghai, a two-day training course that was organised on “application of financial risk control based on big data” by Alibaba and a two-day course organised by Huawei that dealt with “Experiment: Big Data Analytics and Applications in Fire Control” and “Experiment: Application of Public Security Based on Big Data”.

“Everyone knows the real intention behind organising these junkets. Rather than blaming anyone who might have gone on these ‘study tours’, the blame lies with the top officials of the ministry who allowed their junior employees to go there despite Chinese telecom firms being under intense scrutiny in the last few years,” an official with an intelligence agency said.