India’s defence intelligence agencies have advised soldiers against them and their families using Chinese mobile phones. In addition, it advises soldiers and their families against purchasing or using mobile phones of Chinese origin and asks soldiers to change their Chinese-origin mobile phones by March 20.
The advisory enumerates commercially available mobile phone brands in India – Vivo, Oppo, Honor, Xiaomi, One Plus, Realme, ZTE, Meizu, Gionee, Infinix and Asus. The advisory was issued in light of cases where agencies allegedly found malware and spyware in Chinese-origin mobile phones.
The advisory instructs formations and unit commanders to sensitise troops about the dangers of using Chinese mobile phones and said, “Formations and units are to sensitise their personnel through various forms and channels to exercise caution with such (Chinese) mobile phone devices.” Furthermore, The advisory asks the formations to “discourage troops and their families from purchasing or using phones from countries hostile to India.”
A senior officer said, “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.”
It is pertinent to note that after the Galwan valley clash, the Government of India banned several Chinese mobile apps after the risks of data breaches due to using Chinese mobile apps and phones were highlighted in 2020. The experts have pointed out risks associated with these phones and how these phones could be used for espionage and collecting sensitive information.
Another senior officer said, “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”.