Government denies 'deterioration' in ties; orders probe into snooping charge against a Chinese company

    17-Sep-2020   
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New Delhi: The Government of India seemed to have adopted a mixed strategy towards China. While on the one hand, it maintains a tough posture vis-a-vis Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh region and also ordered a probe into alleged 'snooping' efforts, it does not want to give up the policy of parleys yet.
 
In fact, according to a government reply to a written question from Trinamool Congress member, Saugata Roy, on whether India's bilateral relations with "neighbouring countries like Nepal, China, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Myanmar has deteriorated recently; the response in the Lok Sabha was a categorical "No".
 
The response on September 16 also added: "The Government accords the highest priority to India's relations with our neighbouring countries. India is an active political and economic partner of its neighbours and is involved in various projects, including development projects with these countries".
 
But when it comes to issues of alleged snooping of data on senior leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and likes of Sonia Gandhi by a China-based company Shenzen Zhenhua, the Modi government has ordered a probe by a panel. The said 'expert committee' would be headed by the National Cyber Security Coordinator.
 
The panel will assess issues related to violations of law and submit its recommendations within 30 days.
 
In fact, the government decision about setting up of the panel was announced by External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar in a letter to Congress MP K C Venugopal.
 
"Replying to my zero-hour intervention on Chinese surveillance, Hon'ble External Affairs Minister Dr S. Jaishankar informed us that the Govt has taken the matter seriously and constituted an expert committee to assess this within 30 days. We expect quick action on this," Venugopal tweeted.
 
Mr Venugopal and his party colleague Rajiv Satav raised the issue in Rajya Sabha on Wednesday and sought government's attention to a media report that suggested tracking of over 10,000 prominent Indian individuals and organisations by a Chinese technology company. Vice President and Rajya Sabha chairman, M. Venkaiah Naidu, quickly asked the Parliamentary Affairs Minister to take note of it and inform the External Affairs Minister on the serious matter.
 
"Inform the minister concerned and see what can be done and find out the veracity also," the Rajya Sabha chairman directed the Parliamentary Affairs ministry.
 
In his letter to the Congress lawmaker, External Affairs Minister Dr Jaishankar reportedly said "The Government of India takes the protection of the privacy and personal data of Indian citizens very seriously. It is deeply concerned at any report that suggests that foreign sources are accessing or seeking to access the personal data of our citizens without their consent".
 
He further stated that - The matter was taken up by the Ministry of External Affairs with the Chinese Ambassador Sun Weidong.
 
"Our Embassy in Beijing also raised it with the Foreign Ministry of China. The Chinese side conveyed that Shenzen Zhenhua is a private company and had stated its position publicly," the minister told Mr Venugopal.
"In their part, the Chinese Foreign ministry maintained that there was no connection between the company concerned and the Chinese government," he also said.
 
The government has also been told by a representative of Shenzen Zhenhua that there was 'no accessing' of private information from confidential sources.
 
Meanwhile, in response to another query in Lok Sabha from two JD(U) members Rajiv Ranjan Singh and Kaushelendra Kumar, the government informed the House that - "the Chinese side departed from consensus to respect the LAC and tried to unilaterally change the status quo, as a result of which a violent face-off happened in the late evening and night of 15 June 2020".
 
The government response also stated: "Both sides suffered casualties that could have been avoided had the agreement at the Senior Commanders level been scrupulously followed by the Chinese side".
 
India lost 20 soldiers at Galwan while the Chinese side reportedly suffered a much higher number of casualties though Beijing has not officially acknowledged such fatalities or loss of men in its side.
 
Lately, the Indian army has ventured into the 'unoccupied' areas which give the forces a "tactical advantage" vis-à-vis the Chinese side. An army source in Delhi also said: "Indian troops pre-empted PLA activity on the southern bank of Pangong Tso Lake, undertook measures to strengthen our positions and thwart Chinese intentions to unilaterally change facts on the ground".
 
Dr Jaishankar met his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on the sidelines of the SCO conclave at Moscow last week and called for "full adherence to all agreements" by Beijing of border management.
 
"The Indian side clearly conveyed that it expected full adherence to all agreements on the management of border areas and would not countenance any attempt to change the status quo unilaterally," sources told this magazine.