Political parties ranging from Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh to Communist Party of India (Marxist) have attacked the proposed Sankhya Vahini project as a threat to national security. Sankhya Vahini will implement a high-speed broadband fibre-optic datacommunications network linking Indian universities and research institutions. As cleared by the cabinet in January, 49 per cent equity will be held by Inter-University Network (IUNet), a wholly owned subsidiary of Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in USA, 45 per cent by the department of telecommunications, 4 per cent by Indian Institutes of Technology and the Indian Institute of Science, and 2 per cent by the ministry of information technology.
Dattopant Thengadi, chief of RSS’s Bhartiya Mazdoor Sangh, charged: “Sankhya Vahini will open the floodgates for espionage, interception of scientific data, telephone conversations, faxes and e-mails by foreign powers.'' CPI-M Rajya Sabha member Nilotpal Basu, a member of Parliament’s Telecommunications and Defence committees, alleged: “Sankhya Vahini will permit USA to intercept India's strategic and scientific secrets. It violates the National Telecom Policy according to which all calls originating or terminating in India compulsorily have to pass through the gateway of Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd, and be subject to monitoring there.” Thengadi and Basu were supported by a leading intelligence expert, B. Raman, former Additional Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat: “American experts associated with Sankhya Vahini could interfere with and distort the information infrastructures of our nuclear, missile and other sensitive defence projects. For causing such distortions, they don't even have to come to India. They can do so from Pittsburgh by taking advantage of the interconnectivity between Sankhya Vahini and CMU’s network.”
is noteworthy that no leading scientist has termed Sankhya Vahini a
security threat. It can be one only if our armed forces, security
agencies, nuclear and defence laboratories, and government departments are
connected to its network. But none of these have any plans to be so
connected. In view of the latest cyberwarfare techniques, they should not
be connected to the Public Switched Telecom Network, internet, ERNet,
Sankhya Vahini, or any other network under any circumstances, but should
have their own dedicated Closed User Group fibre-optic network with
end-to-end strong encryption.
James Woolsey, former director of USA’s Central Intelligence Agency,
revealed in mid-May the development of a new class of cyberviruses, termed
instructive viruses: “Instructive viruses spread covertly, using minimal
system and network resources, as they steal secrets. They can transfer all
files on a specific topic to a particular outside computer. They can
instruct critical computers to shut down vital infrastructure. Even strong
cryptography is no match for them. Instructive viruses placed on your
network can read all your files before you have even had a chance to
encrypt your data.” Larry Wood of USA’s National Security Agency has
just developed a cybervirus called Blitzkrieg which can destroy networks
of entire nations. Wood claimed: “Blitzkrieg, the equivalent of the
human Ebola virus, is undetectable and unstoppable, capable of
infiltrating every information network. It can crash all equipment on a
network, including those that are turned off. There is no way to defend
is conceivable that Blitzkrieg and instructive viruses could be installed
clandestinely into routers,
switches, modems, optoelectronics and software procured
by IUNet from foreign vendors, for activation years later.
so long as Sankhya Vahini is used for connecting educational and research
institutions alone and not any defence organizations, it will be much more
secure than existing networks.
Sankhya Vahini is a fibre-optic network with end-to-end encryption. Other
than at optoelectronic repeaters, optical cables cannot be tapped since
they do not leak radio frequency signals. Thus Sankhya Vahini will not be
vulnerable to interception by foreign spy systems such as the
Anglo-American Echelon, in contrast to the vulnerability of INSAT
satellites, VSNL’s gateways and DoT’s intercity microwave links.
Sankhya Vahini will make it feasible to host websites and databases within
India. At present, most Indian websites and databases, even government
ones, are hosted on servers in USA due to bandwidth constraints here.
Recently, forces hostile to India hacked several Indian websites hosted in
Sankhya Vahini will permit most email traffic to remain wholly within
India, unlike at present when even emails between locations in the same
Indian city travel to USA and back.
other Internet Service Providers, Sankhya Vahini will also have to obey
governmental orders and follow all conditions specified in the ISP
license. ISPs are
required to provide monitoring facilities to government agencies and
permit surveillance of their international gateways. Sankhya Vahini, too,
would be subject to these provisions.
politicians and journalists have also alleged that Sankhya Vahini’s two
main promoters, professors Raj Reddy and V. S. Arunachalam of CMU, have
close links with American defense and security agencies. They also find it
suspicious that USA quickly gave permission for the transfer of advanced
technologies in spite of the sanctions following Pokhran II. Raman
sanctions imposed against India following Pokharan II, USA gave all
clearances for CMU’s participation in Sankhya Vahini promptly between
August and October 1998. It would be reasonable to infer that USA is
interested in a quick implementation of this project for their own
national security reasons.”
groups opposed to Sankhya Vahini are some powerful business houses who
want to install nationwide datacom networks themselves and Indian
manufacturers of telecom equipment who are afraid of all orders being
placed directly on foreign vendors by IUNet, as specified in the
Memorandum of Understanding.
is not widely known that in the early 1980s, there was an understanding
between Caspar Weinberger, then US Secretary of Defense and former
president R. Venkataraman, then our defence minister, for close
cooperation between USA’s Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA)
and India’s Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO).
agreement focused on development of dual-use technologies, as well as
commercialization of defense technologies. It did not extend to direct
weapons research or military operations, nor involve the armed forces. To
avoid political backlash in both India as well as in America (then at the
height of the Cold War against Andropov’s Soviet Union and supporting
Pakistan as a front-line state; Congress and the Pentagon were also
strongly anti-India), most of this understanding was not documented – it
remained a tacit gentleman’s agreement between Weinberger and
persons implementing this understanding on the Indian side were V. S.
Arunachalam, then Scientific Advisor to the Defence Minister and
Secretary, DRDO, and on the US side were Raj Reddy, head of the Robotics
Institute at CMU, and advisor on information technology to the US
government. P. V. Narasimha Rao was also associated in his capacity first
as Minister of External Affairs and later as Defence Minister.
cooperation for commercialization of defense technologies was to be
achieved through three conduits: first, direct sharing of research results
and exchange of visits between the defence laboratories of the two
countries; second, through universities which were major executors of
DARPA projects such as Carnegie Mellon, Massachusetts Institute of
Technology, Stanford and Caltech; and third, through corporations which
were major US defense contractors opening subsidiaries in India,
especially in the software and electronic design sectors.
senior DRDO officials went to USA on post-doctoral fellowships, especially
to CMU, and many worked on projects funded by DARPA. Commodore A. Paulraj,
head of DRDO’s Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics, and
having in-depth knowledge of our defence secrets, went to Stanford as a
Distinguished Professor. He also founded some companies in Silicon Valley
which have performed several assignments for the Indian defence
establishment and transferred technology in radars and sonars. His
successor at CAIR was an Indian citizen who had been in USA for decades
and had never worked before in India, who brought the latest artificial
intelligence technologies to India.
the early 1990s, Arunachalam himself, while still a government official
entrusted with our most crucial defence secrets, went on leave of absence
as a Visiting Professor at CMU. He was required under the terms of his
leave to send periodic reports to our government and visit India every few
months to brief the prime minister in person.
forerunner of Sankhya Vahini was proposed by Raj Reddy and Arunachalam to
P. V. Narasimha Rao as far back as 1994, but it could not be implemented.
Atal Behari Vajpayee revived the proposal a few months after Pokharan II.
US defense agencies associated with CMU have also been transferring
dual-use technology to Indian organizations. Software Engineering
Institute, a joint venture between the US Department of Defense and CMU,
has provided its expertise to over 35 Indian companies. SEI has a joint
venture with Mahindra-British Telecom and the government of Maharashtra,
the Indian Institute of Software Engineering in Pune. SEI has also
established the Indian Institute of Information Technology at Hyderabad in
collaboration with the government of Andhra Pradesh. SEI is also
establishing the Carnegie Center for Software Engineering in Bangalore in
collaboration with LG, the Karnataka government, and the Indian Institute
of Science, as well as the Software Quality Institute in Chennai.
Emergency Response Team (CERT), a joint venture of CMU, DARPA, Defense
Information Systems Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation,
located on the CMU campus, has transferred its technology to 80
organizations around the world. Since its establishment in 1988, CERT has
handled over 15,000 incidents of intrusions into computer networks and
analyzed more than 1,100 vulnerabilities in commercial products. Both CERT
and CMU’s Institute for Survivable Systems will transfer their expertise
to Sankhya Vahini.
Vahini also plans to be the world’s first large-scale implementation of
technologies such as Internet2 (i2), SuperNet and vBNS (very high speed
backbone network services). US federal and defense agencies have largely
funded the development of these technologies which are still in the pilot
stage in USA. By implementing Sankhya Vahini, India’s research and
educational institutions can leapfrog ahead of those in OECD countries.
Published in The Telegraph, Calcutta, India, on Friday, 07 July 2000, Edit Page , titled "Paranoia in Gigabytes"
http://www.telegraphindia.com, Click on Archives, Go to Issue of Friday, 07 July 2000, Click on Editorial, Click on "Paranoia in Gigabytes"
We represent multinational vendors of telecom and datacom equipment and services in India.
We have marketed telecom and datacom equipment and services to Indian basic telecom operators, GSM cellular mobile operators, Internet service providers, VSAT service providers, POCSAG paging operators, software exporters, etc.
We specialize in sales to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), Videsh Sanchar Nigam (VSNL), Mahanagar Telephone Nigam (MTNL), large organizational customers, and private service providers.
We obtain all regulatory permissions and licenses from central, state and local governments, obtain type approvals and interface approvals from the Telecom Engineering Centre, perform public and media relations, and introduce our clients to influential government officials, politicians, and print and television journalists.
We perform customer requirements analysis, project feasibility analysis, return-on-investment analysis, risk analysis, financial closure, identification of joint venture partners, due diligence, contract negotiations and documentation.
We have provided such advisory services to equipment suppliers, basic telecom operators, GSM cellular mobile operators, Internet service providers, VSAT service providers, POCSAG paging operators, radio trunking operators, etc.
We market GSM cellular handsets of most major international brands at the best rates in North India.