Hong Kong-based telecom major Hutchison Whampoa on Friday offered its manufacturing facilities for government inspection and said it would provide all assistance in establishing its bonafide, in the face of media reports raising security concerns about the company's Indian operations.
"We suspect the reports linking us to any security concerns were perhaps raised by our commercial rivals in India," group managing director of Hutchison Whampoa Ltd Canning Fok said in a letter to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
The letter follows media reports that Intelligence Bureau and the Research and Analysis Wing (of GoI) had alerted the government of the links between Hutchison and Chinese companies and indicated that Hutchison's Indian joint venture with Essar might come under scrutiny.
The source of the trouble may be traced to Internet Service Provider, Now India's unusually low service charges of Rs 5 per hour. When intelligence officers plugged into Now India they discovered that the remote-controlled trouble shooting tool, Unicenter, gave the ISP access to its customer's PC.
Since the ISP's Internet traffic from India was being routed through two servers of Data Access India Limited and reached the Gateway of Hutchison Corporate Access Ltd, Hong Kong, the agencies feared that there was a good possibility of the Indian traffic being monitored at the Hong Kong end.
Even Communication and Information Technology Minister Arun Shourie had recently told the Rajya Sabha about this ISP. "Intelligence agencies found that the company was linked to a Mauritian firm, which, in turn, was a subsidiary of a Hong Kong company with connections with Peoples' Liberation Army of China and the Chinese intelligence," Shourie said.
However, sources said intelligence agencies had not found anything wrong about the Hong Kong-based company.
Asserting that the company is committed to a total foreign investment of Rs 5,000 crore (Rs 50 billion), Fok said, "We have a continuing commitment to India to participate in its development in the core areas, initially in the sectors of telecom and ports."
Fok said, "We have no interest and links or special relationship whatsoever with any agencies anywhere in the countries we operate in which could have security implications."
Fok said Hutchison Whampoa is a $25-billion commercial enterprise listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange and operates in 41 countries worldwide in five core sectors, with over 150,000 employees.
The company has requested the PM to ensure that it is permitted to do business in India in a clean and open manner in compliance with all Indian laws.