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NEW DELHI : Even as the US administration puts the screws on Chinese telecom equipment maker Huawei for alleged espionage, India will remain non-committal on allowing the company in 5G rollouts at this week’s meetings with US secretary of state Mike Pompeo.

India will listen to the US views on Huawei, but allow itself considerable time before taking a decision, said a government official who spoke on condition of anonymity. The government has already formed a panel to examine concerns arising out of Huawei’s participation in 5G.

“During Pompeo’s visit, we will be on a listening mode only (on the Huawei issue). We are in no hurry to take a final call, especially as many other countries are also taking their time to decide on this matter and we will be watching their stance also," said the official mentioned above.

India and the US are expected to discuss issues with regard to trade, Huawei’s participation in 5G rollouts, India’s planned purchase of the Russian S-400 anti-missile systems, and data localization rules, during Pompeo’s visit to India from 25 June to 27 June.

The visit comes just two weeks after India’s department of telecommunications kick-started the process for 5G rollouts by seeking a comprehensive review of the sector regulator’s recommendations on the upcoming spectrum auctions.

India recently approved a one-year 5G trial period and a one-time fee of 5,000 for entities seeking experimental spectrum to conduct trials. It has, however, not stated explicitly whether it will allow Huawei to participate in the trials.

Earlier, this month, telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had said that the government will take “a firm view" on Huawei’s participation. “There are also security issues...it is not only a matter of technology, with regard to their participation in 5G...Participation of 5G is not conditional upon the trial being started. Whether a particular company is allowed to participate or not is a complex question including security issues," Prasad had said the day he took charge of the ministry.

Huawei, meanwhile, has asked India to make an “independent judgement". Indian telecom operators also await clarity so that they can sign purchase agreements with equipment vendors.

Since last year, the US has pressed its allies to ban Huawei from 5G rollouts on the back on suspicions about Chinese espionage, allegations the company has always denied. Australia and Japan have barred Huawei, while Canada and New Zealand are likely to follow suit. Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, however, have welcomed Huawei. Many countries in Europe are still to make a decision.

The company’s founder Ren Zhengfei predicts the US sanctions will cut its revenue by $30 billion over the coming two years, Bloomberg said in a report dated 18 June.

Even as Huawei strives to shake off perceptions over its closeness to the Chinese government, the development spells a competitive advantage for European rivals such as Ericsson and Nokia. Sweden’s Ericsson has already rolled out nine live 5G networks globally.

India is still in the process of finalizing a road map for 5G, the next-generation technology for wireless communications that is expected to improve data speed and propel Internet of Things.

On Thursday, telecom secretary Aruna Sundararajan had said her ministry is expecting a recommendation from the committee examining Huawei’s 5G participation. “Once the recommendations of the committee come, these will be submitted to the government to take a call. It is not just going to be the decision of the DoT. It will be a larger strategic decision that has trade implications and geopolitical implications," she said.

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