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India assures Canada on Blackberry
Girja Shankar Kaura
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 1
In an apparent effort to keep the sensitive “Blackberry” issue from ballooning into a diplomatic row, India has gone ahead and assured Canada that, commercial interests of RIM, the maker of Blackberry, would be kept in mind while taking any final decision.

The response from the Indian government has come after the Canadian high commissioner David M. Malone had written to communications and IT minister A. Raja wanting clarity on the issue and seeking information as to who would take a decision on the issue raised by security agencies here.

The security agencies had raised concerns over the operations of Blackberry in India, keeping in mind terrorists operations across the country and non-availability of interception facilities, which would have a bearing on the national security.

As a result of the concerns raised, not only have the Department of Telecom (DoT) officials trying to find a solution to the issue in consultations with the RIM officials, but it has also directed the service providers not to connect or provide/run Blackberry services to new customers.

It said unless the required monitoring system was in place to the satisfaction of the security agencies of the country and the master key and algorithm were deposited by the licensor (DoT), no new connection for Blackberry should be provided.

Now telecom secretary Siddhartha Behura in a letter to foreign secretary Shiv Shankar Menon for communication to Canada has said, “We are fully aware of the sensitivity and confidentiality of our conversation with RIM and would like to assure them that we respect their commercial interest and would do nothing to jeopardise the same”. The letter as a protocol would have to be routed through the Ministry of External Affairs.

He said the government hoped that it would be able to resolve the issue satisfactorily and speedily. “The signs are encouraging,” he said.

The Canadian high commissioner had written the letter on April 17 last on the issue of lawful interception of information as related to RIM and sought to understand as to who in the Government of India was empowered to resolve this issue.

Malone had in his letter said, “This is also necessary in order to ensure that right representative from RIM are at the table.

“The discussions managed by the Department of Telecommunication (DoT) till date have inspired little confidence. Those involved on the Indian side are actually empowered to settle the matter as the Indian government’s demand of RIM keep expanding while media leaks proliferate, some of them very damaging from the security perspective and sourced by the journalist involved directly to DoT,” he said.

“Potential terrorists are now aware, because of these leaks, of technical issues unknown to most of us previously”, he said. As per the available figure, there are about four lakh Blackberry subscribers in India and the services are being offered by Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Essar, Reliance Communications and BPL.

Tata Teleservices wanted to start offering the service, but was stopped from it until the issue was resolved to the satisfaction of security agencies. The DoT secretary with the home secretary also discussed the matter and it was felt that security concerns had to be jointly addressed for finding a solution.

Ever since the controversy erupted, DoT has been meeting various stakeholders from time to time and in order to find a solution, a meeting was held between DoT and the IB officials with technical representative of RIM on April 10.



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