Taking note of The Indian Express investigation report that a Shenzen-based technology company with links to the Chinese government and the Chinese Communist Party is monitoring over 10,000 Indian individuals and organisations in its global database of “foreign targets”, Opposition members asked the government Monday to step in, open a probe and take the initiative for a global dialogue.
The Congress said the report about “Chinese digital surveillance” of India’s leaders and others is “quite disturbing” and it is important to know the extent of this surveillance, and if there is more to this than collating data. It said the development has huge implications for national security and privacy of citizens.
Anand Sharma, Congress deputy leader in Rajya Sabha, told reporters: “It is a very serious thing. We hope the government will go to the bottom of it and take appropriate action to protect data privacy of citizens. This has huge implications for national security, besides the privacy of citizens. It needs an in-depth probe and firm action.”
Sharma is chairman of the Parliamentary standing committee on Home Affairs.
Gaurav Gogoi, Congress deputy leader in Lok Sabha, said, “We want the Government of India to step up its efforts on cyber security because when we confront a country like China — we are confronting China not only on land, sea and air, we are confronting Chinese intentions in cyberspace as well — Government of India should not be caught sleeping.”
“We should be aware, and they should ramp up their efforts. In the days to come, the government should make it clear that all the data that has been collected by Chinese agencies have not been used to manipulate policy, have not been used to gain more intelligence data on our military or on sensitive information. That kind of assurance should come from this government,” he said.
Former External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said it is time the government initiates a global dialogue on such threats. “If what is reported is true, there is certainly a great sense of concern and disquiet,” he said.
“We encountered this before in the matter of various platforms associated with the United States that were culling out and using meta data and there were many issues raised at that time. I am not quite sure how far we took that matter, and how we resolve this. But there is growing concern across the globe, and I would imagine that there needs to be a global conversation on this,” he said.
Referring to the military standoff with China, he said, “Right now, we can express our immediate concern with our neighbour because of the existing circumstances, but I think this is a larger problem that needs to be handled globally, and I am sure we are well placed to take an initiative in this matter. The government should take initiative for a global dialogue.”
Praveen Chakravarty, head of the Congress’s technology and data cell, said, “The news about Chinese digital surveillance of India’s leaders and others is quite disturbing. Most importantly, we need to know the extent of this surveillance, and if there is more to this than collating public data on people. The government has to assure the nation through a detailed investigation.”
“Equally, the increasing incidence of foreign technology companies intruding into India’s and Indians’ affairs is alarming. We need an anti-digital surveillance law to be drafted and enacted soon, which will also incorporate data privacy,” he said.
In its official reaction, Congress communication department in-charge Randeep Surjewala said, “If the report is true, then was the Modi government aware of this serious case? Or they didn’t know that we were being spied upon? Why is the government failing to protect our borders over and over again? A clear message needs to be sent out to China to prevent them from indulging in such activities.”
TMC Lok Sabha member Saugata Roy said: “I moved an adjournment motion in Parliament today regarding this issue of the Chinese company tracking us, although I did not get a chance to mention it. This is an extremely serious matter that a Chinese agency, controlled by the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese government, is farming data information on all top political leaders, senior officials, Army staff and top scientists. It is invading the data privacy of Indian leaders. Our government needs to raise this concern with the Chinese government.”
RJD Rajya Sabha member and party spokesperson Manoj Jha said: “When we opened the newspaper this morning, we saw one of the scariest news items in recent times. What worries me is how we are tackling these issues with China. Today, the Prime Minister made a comment that we need to stand by our soldiers, that we do and have always done. Our soldiers have never disappointed us. It is the diplomatic corridors which have. With China, whether it is along the border, from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh, or at international fora, now this… The government has had a robust no-nonsense policy when it comes to another neighbour, Pakistan. Our question is why do we shy away from a similar robust policy for Beijing? This is such a serious news item. Why has the government not responded?”.
BSP Lok Sabha member Kunwar Danish Ali said: “The investigative report published in The Indian Express is an eye-opener. The Government of India has blind faith on Chinese firms… It is really a very dangerous situation. Our neighbouring country is showing its true colours. This is the failure of the government.”
SP Rajya Sabha member Kunwar Rewati Raman Singh said, “This (the investigation) is a warning for India… We must remember that China captured a large part of Indian territory in the 1962 war… China is transgressing on our territory again. How much Indian land has been captured, the government is not telling us.”
Shiv Sena leader and Maharashtra Transport Minister Anil Parab told reporters: “It is the job of the Union government to protect leaders from Maharashtra. Not just Maharashtra, but all leaders in the list should be protected by the Centre.”
NCP Rajya Sabha member Vandana Chavan said: “The data farming of Indian leaders and citizens is a very serious concern and the feeling now is that all our data can be compromised. This is no less than cyber warfare and an issue that the government needs to take very seriously and tackle.”
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