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Friday, April 16, 2021

India, every move you make, China is watching you! Here’s how

Here comes a big revelation. According to recently published reports, a Chinese company is spying on major Indian leaders, their functions, big trade institutions and so on. The world is watching how the Dragons have resorted to aggressive measures since the pandemic took over the world. India is dealing with China’s hostility along the LAC for quite some months now. Despite high-level talks with India, China is reluctant to remove its army personnel from the international border. Amid all these, recent investigative reports claim, the neighbours are stalking us!

So what is this all about? Are we having any immediate or longterm threat for the Chinese monitoring us? In this article, we shall focus on the latest developments about the Chinese surveillance in India and its major activities.

China is spying on India: Here’s how in 7 points

1. So, is China really watching us?

A Shenzen-based tech firm with close association with the Chinese government, and the Chinese Communist Party, is monitoring over 10,000 Indian people and organisations, a report said. The company, Zhenhua Data Information Technology Co. Limited, claims itself to be a pioneer in using big data for hybrid warfare

2. Who are all the Chinese firm stalking?

All the top political leaders are under the Chinese firm’s radar. Right from President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Congress interim President Sonia Gandhi and their families; Chief Ministers Mamata Banerjee, Ashok Gehlot and Amarinder Singh to Uddhav Thackeray, Naveen Patnaik and Shivraj Singh Chouhan; Cabinet Ministers Rajnath Singh and Ravi Shankar Prasad to Nirmala Sitharaman, Smriti Irani, and Piyush Goyal. Also, the names of top security chiefs, such as Chief of Defence Staff Bipin Singh Rawat to at least 15 former Chiefs of the Army, Navy and Air Force; Chief Justice of India SA Bobde and brother judge AM Khanwilkar to Lokpal Justice PC Ghose and Comptroller and Auditor General GC Murmu; start-up tech entrepreneurs like Nipun Mehra, founder of Bharat Pe (an Indian payment app), and Ajay Trehan of AuthBridge, an authentication technology firm, to top industrialists Ratan Tata and Gautam Adani. The list include all major individuals. If the Chinese firm can really fetch all necessary data that these individuals deal with then it can be really alarming for us.

The report claims that the list also features top bureaucrats, judges, scientists, academicians, journalists, actors and sportspersons, religious figures and activists as well.

3. Why this revelation is a threat for India?

This assumes significance as China is having a simmering standoff with India along the LAC in Ladakh and is pushing against many of its neighbours in the region and beyond and the tech firm has claimed that it works with Chinese intelligence, military and security agencies.

As per the latest reports, through mining data of the opponent country, China is pushing for a hybrid warfare and is using non-military tools to achieve dominance or damage, subvert or influence.

4. What is known about this Chinese tech firm?

As records claim that Zhenhua was registered as a company in April 2018 and set up 20 processing units across countries and regions. The company claims the Chinese government and military among its clients. As per a report, the company took down its website http://www.china-revival.com on September 9 as various media houses started an investigation into their spying business.

It is reported that right from scraping information from the web and social media platforms, tracking research papers, articles, patents, recruitment positions, Zhenhua’s monitoring services map what it calls person information and relationship mining – networks among individuals, institutions and organisations, and changes in their leadership positions based on information from multiple sources.

5. What does the Chinese Embassy in India say about this?

A Chinese Embassy source said in a report that China has not asked and will not ask companies or individuals to collect or provide data, information and intelligence stored within other countries’ territories for the Chinese government by installing “backdoors” or by violating local laws. But the source did not say if the Chinese government and the military were clients of Zhenhua Data as claimed by the company.

We know that every country does this in one way or the other, that’s the job of foreign intelligence. But from all these developments, this seems that using big data science and technology, Beijing has, clearly, taken it to the next level. The company’s range of people they are getting information on shows that they are very serious about the strategic value of hybrid warfare. These are information assets for the Chinese government that can jeopardize India’s plan to take on its aggressive neighbour.

6. China spying via optical cables too?

According to a report, Chinese troops laid a network of optical fibre cables south of Pangong Lake in Ladakh, suggesting they were digging in for the long haul despite high-level talks aimed at resolving a standoff there. Such cables, which would provide forward troops with secure lines of communication to bases in the rear, have recently been spotted to the south of Pangong Tso lake in Ladakh, a senior government official told NDTV.

“Our biggest worry is that they have laid optical fibre cables for high-speed communications,” the first official said, referring to the lake’s southern bank, where Indian and Chinese troops are only a few hundred metres apart at some points. “They have been laying optical fibre cables on the southern bank at breakneck speed,” he said in the report. Indian intelligence agencies noted similar cables to the north of the Pangong Tso lake around a month ago, the second government official said.

The first government official said the authorities were alerted to such activity after satellite imagery showed unusual lines in the sand of the high-altitude deserts to the south of Pangong Tso. These lines were judged by experts – and corroborated by foreign intelligence agencies – to be communication cables laid in trenches, he said, including near the Spanggur gap, among hilltops where soldiers fired in the air recently for the first time in decades.

Officials say a build-up in border infrastructure on their side is also likely to have played a part in the months-long confrontation. A former military intelligence official, who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter, said in a report that optical fibre cables offered communications security as well as the ability to send data such as pictures and documents.

7. What is India’s reaction to China’s spying?

Indian intelligence agencies are “not surprised” by the expose on the ‘hybrid war’ by China, the government said reacting to the development.

Officials said the government was aware of data mining by Chinese companies and its misuse by Chinese agencies. “The decision to ban Chinese apps was taken because of this misuse. Indian agencies flagged how common Indians unknowingly were contributing to the data bank of Chinese companies, which in turn was being shared with Chinese Communist Party and agencies,” an official said in a report. The Indian intelligence acknowledged that the data for VIP Indians like Prime Minister, President and CJI, even if collated from open source, could be used damagingly by an enemy nation and its agency.

As many of us know that China, with its own form of Google, YouTube and Twitter, has managed to safeguard its own data to some extent. So, where do all these take us? It’s definitely an intimidating development but we look forward to see how India combats China in the sphere of hybrid war.

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