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Telecom companies preparing themselves to intercept calls between India, Pak, if required

PW Bureau 

Phone companies might also monitor international long-distance (ILD) traffic on select routes with India’s military calling a high alert near the India-Pakistan border Kolkata/Barcelona: Telecom operators are likely to comply with the government’s request to intercept suspect calls between India and Pakistan. Phone companies might monitor international long-distance (ILD) traffic on select routes with India’s military calling a high alert near the India-Pakistan border. In case hostilities mount, telecom companies are also preparing themselves to improve their periodic network security drills, but they are yet to receive any specific instructions from the government. If the armed forces or government agencies require assistance from telecom service providers (TSPs), they would “be highly confidential and known only to the designated nodal officer in each TSP. The nodal officer is bound by strict confidentiality requirements. So, unable to confirm if any requests have been received by operators,” Rajan Mathews, director general of Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), which represents Vodafone Idea, Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio Infocomm, said.

Licensed carriers are equipped to intercept calls

On grounds of national security, licensed carriers are technically equipped to catch calls once the targets for interception within a circle are specified by the appropriate police authorities/home ministry, industry experts said. “The company is fully committed to extending all possible support to the government and the armed forces,” a top executive of a Big 3 telecom company said, declining to share specifics.

Temporary net shutdowns a possibility

In the event border tensions escalate, security experts say temporary Internet shutdowns or suspension of data services in sensitive locations is possible. “The government can technically order temporary Internet shutdowns in surcharged situations to pre-empt rumour mongering and the wrong sort of messages spreading in sensitive zones in national security interest, and can even direct telcos to intercept/tap specific calls, based on intelligence inputs,” Ram Narain, former DDG (Security) in the telecom department, said. Vodafone Idea, Airtel, BSNL and Jio have not made any comments on the matter.