A top executive of BlackBerry maker Research in Motion Ltd said Indian security agencies are making "rather astonishing" demands for increased powers to monitor e-mail and other data traffic, raising serious privacy issues that threaten to harm the country's reputation with foreign investors.
Robert Crow, Vice-President of Industry and Government Relations for RIM, said India's Home Ministry wants the ability to intercept in real time any communication on any Indian network - including BlackBerry's highly secure corporate email service - and get it in readable, plain-text format.
According to a Wall Street Journal report, he said such a broad requirement raises the question of whether the government believes any communications are legally off-limits.
"You connect those dots and you're saying, 'Holy smokes'," Crow said during an interview.
He said: "This claim is made in an environment where we don't really have any privacy- or data-protection laws - and where we have a pretty poor administrative record of keeping similar things like wiretaps secret."
A spokesman for India's Home Ministry declined to comment.
Government officials in India have previously said they want to ensure suspected terrorists and criminals can't elude government surveillance by using newfangled communications technologies.
Under current Indian law, the home secretary authorizes all telecom surveillance by central government agencies for 60 days at a time.
RIM has faced demands from India to give security agencies a way to access encrypted messages on BlackBerry's corporate email service.
BlackBerry has repeatedly said its system is designed so that it doesn't have the "keys" to unlock users'' messages - and it has refused to change its technology architecture in any one of the 175 countries where it offers service.