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Indian IT Giants Eyeing Pakistan's Vulnerabilities

18 July, 2005

By Momin Iftikhar


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The twelve days long disruption in SEA-ME@WE-3, the only cable providing international IT connectivity to, Pakistan, has comprehensively exposed the dangers of operating without a crucial backup which can lead to a virtual paralysis in an emergency. It has also bared the threat emanating from India's IT giants to Pakistanís commercial as well as security related concerns. There are indicators galore that Indian IT Industry is sharpening its claws to delve into Pakistan's vulnerabilities as and when the situation lends itself for manipulation. Unless watchdog agencies and PTCL workout a joint strategy to ward off the threat there are all the possibilities that Pakistan mould end up a loser in this high stake contest.

 Pakistan's primer connection to outside world is dependent on the 38,000 KM long SEA-ME-WE-3 trunk cable which has 9 landing points. Despite the fact that Pakistan is a member of the consortium financing the cable, it lacks the facility of the landing point and is connected to the cable through a 60 KM long 'spur' in the absence of a back up if the connecting spur is damaged, Pakistan' connectivity with the outside world comes to an end. It is reassuring, however, to note that this bothersome contingency is being taken care of through expected completion of SEA-ME-WE-4 submarine cable in the third quarter of 2005. Pakistan is pant of the consortium building this 20,000 KM long cable spawning Singapore to France via Middle East, carrying telephone, internet and various broadband data streams. According to experts the advantage of the backup arrangements can be further maximized by creating alternatives of both the cables by linking the spurs emanating from. SEA-ME-WE-3 & 4 cables. This will ensure that in case
one of the spur got disrupted, the volume of traffic remained undiminished and continued to flow.

In the given scenario marked b the paucity of interact submarine cable assets, expanding Pakistanís international connectivity by hooking onto the existing network of the neighbouring countries - China, Iran, UAE and India, emerges as a strong alternative possibility. Available options include linking up through Gawadar to Fujairh (UAE), Gilgit to Sinkiang (China), Quetta to Zahidan (Iran) and the dicey and double edged connection to India through Wagah. Not that such arrangement come without internet risks and hidden costs. The country through which the internet traffic transits gains access to strategic intelligence through monitoring of the traffic, the country providing the transit can gain revenue by refilling of the traffic at the cost of Pakistan and lastly its own assets (SEA-ME-WE-3 &.4 in case of Pakistan) get bypassed and remain under utilized. In this context it is pertinent to note that even now only 3,5% of the bandwidth available on SEA-ME-WE-3 has been utilized despite the fact that it is the only bandwidth for international connectivity. According to experts a terrestrial connection with India will expose our IT related interests to strong possibilities of wanton Indian exploitation.

Before one takes a stock of the IT threat emanating from India, a brief survey of her internet/telecom assets would be in order to ascertain the extent of Indian ascendance in the IT related fields. India has at her command an array of ten cables, some of these indigenously owned. The international cables shared by India include SEA-ME-WE-2, 3 & 4, SAFE, Gulf Cable and i2i. The urgency of Indian compulsions to dominate the field is evident from the fact half a dozen of international cables have been acquired within the span of last three years alone. The Reliance Group of India has acquired FLAG Cable connecting Europe, Asia, and Far East Countries and is now most aggressively manipulating to get a major share of Pakistanís IT related business. To sweeten the bait it has offered to provide a landing point of this cable at Karachi, free of cost. Even at present Reliance is using 3* 155 Mbps connectivity from SEA-ME-3 to provide internet services in Pakistan. Indiaís state owned company, VSNL has signed an agreement with the Hong Kong based company to acquire Asia Netcom Bandwidth to lease its cable system. The network offers 80 GB band width and links India to Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Singapore and Taiwan. VSNL has also acquired Tyco Global Network (TGN) which provides India with the control of cable connecting three continents. It has a capacity of 460 gbps with a potential to be upgraded to 5.12 tbps. Tata Indicom, another Business Conglomerate, laid the fist 100% Indian owned cable from India to Singapore in November 2004 to provide 5.12 terabit capacity to India.

Such outstanding assets having a combination of state and entrepreneurial ownership are aggressively seeking ways and means to exploit Pakistanís IT system vulnerabilities and weaknesses, India design centers at destroying the credibility of the Pakistanís cable network to attract routing of cable traffic meant for Pakistan to its own network and also to create conditions whereby Pakistan is forced or lured into gaining an overland cable connect through Indian owned networks. In this context it is instructive to note that the fault that crippled the network operation in Pakistan occurred at the spur linking SEA-ME-WE-3 Cable trunk to mainland, affecting only Pakistan. According to experts the chances of this disruption occurring through natural causes remains highly unlikely while all indicators point to the possibility of sabotage by the vested quarters to bring the fragility of Pakistanís cable network into the limelight. Experts also point out to the 2003 hacking attacks over Pakistanís IT infrastructure in whose aftermath Reliance Group of India was able to divert a large chunk of IT related traffic from Pakistanís operated infrastructure to its own along with substantial revenue windfall. To many experts the breakdown might be an Indian engineered ploy to discredit PTCL, disillusion the foreign vendors flocking into Pakistan to take advantage of deregulation of communication policies, divert bulk of traffic to Indian cable network and force Pakistan to go for the easiest but dicey option to linkup with overland cable network of India.
 
The Government of Pakistan (GoP) has recently formulated the policy governing the terrestrial cable link with neighbouring countries. It rightly stipulates that such cable connection will be used for bilateral traffic only and will carry voice and no data traffic. However given the cut throat tactics of Indian entrepreneurs, the enforcement of this policy calls for instituting ironclad guarantees in the bilateral agreements to avert any problems from emerging later on. Unless all loopholes for exploitation are painstakingly and meticulously blocked, once the bandwidth are sold, it would be difficult to ensure that Pakistanís security related strategic and commercial interest are not compromised through wanton exploitation by vested quarters.
 
In an increasingly interconnected and interdependent world, IT has emerged as a powerful tool for conducting multifarious activities which have a bearing not only on day to day functioning but provides the sustenance for conducting vital and strategically important state functions. The recent wake call provided by the disruption of the SEA-ME-WE-3 cable has provided us a good opportunity to talk a stock of the situation and set our bearings to correct. While thinking out options to maximize our national IT potential we need to be cognizant of the threat posed by Indiaís mammoth growth in this vital field. This is era of geo-economics yet no country can close its eyes to security dimensions of this double weapon. While considering the easiest option of seeking a land connect with India we need to ensure that our strategic interests are fire walled from the threat of an IT assault, which is our own making. Whatever be the perceived windfall of revenues, it doesnít make a case for placing our jugular at the mercy of others.

End.

Reader Comments:

IT in pakistan

the expansion of IT in pakistan still is

.look around the entire world has been blaming pakistan for its activities.dont look at others,try cleaning your dirt first and then point to iNDIA .

kumar, Seychelles - 18 July, 2005

Mr Momim,
You need to do some homework...
well whynot put the heading of this article as "Pakistans Incompetency"...
you people are selfish....instead of praising india for its help at the emergeny .when pakistan was cut from the world, you people only look down ...
By the way, who are these "experts"...moreover, what IT infrastructure or dealings you have to offer to India ?...can u qoute any one instead of internet service...
and the secret behind india success ...."we indians like to work ".......

thanks for another INDIA praising article....

harmeet, United Arab Emirates - 18 July, 2005

This type of thinking will spoil the future.. Always doubting others.. Growup man...

Shareef, Pakistan - 18 July, 2005

Yeah, you are right !!

Yes, you are very right !! Indian IT giants have no other work. It's very important for them to look for Pakistan Vulnerabilties and attack them. I really don't understand why you folks think this way. Yes, India is trying to expand its IT horizon. Shouldn't you really think what Pak needs to do grow in this field rather than worry about "India's so called mammoth growth". Please start considering India as a competitor and not as a threat. For heaven's sake, please change that mind-set. While your article has good details, it has the same anti-India punch as many of Pak articles do...

Karim, Hungary - 18 July, 2005

threat perceptions

Now we have it!!!
India is being blamed for Pakistan's inability to cope with her IT skills.
If Pakistan is not able to make any headway in IT it is not India's problem. It is a problem with your planners and your Govenrment.
How can you expect to make progress when your society is ridden with all kinds of problems of sectarian violence, rape and presence of jihadi's and clerics???

aarvey, Hungary - 18 July, 2005

well said joker

Mr.Harmeet, well said we have incompetency, but thanks God we have incompetency not impotency like whole indians including their leaders, how competent indians are, we have seen in case of call center scam regarding bank A/C numbers and other information of british people, actually we know from last 50 years and world is knowing now that for indians is money every thing even at the cost of every thing, we can compete indians and we proved this in games like cricket, hockey , squash and football etc, and get ready its time to overcome you in other fields like business and economy, and truth is that indians are worried about paksitnis and the leadership of pakistan's potential which they are showing and getting world support and growing rapidly,
our 8.4% GDP growth is not digesting you dear, but you should not be worried as you have huge number of ladies to support (as usual) india to stand in the world, indian females are more competent as compare to indian shemales, offer your ladies to the world leaders and get their support as usual,
i hope you will be happy now,

EJAZ, Kuwait - 19 July, 2005

Great article

It is important for Pakistan to have alternate options in terms of connectivity to the outside world. So the recent cutoff was a blessing in disguise!

As far as Indian IT is concerned, we should not be bothered. Indian IT is getting saturated. Land prices have hiked in cities like Banglore and in the near future, it would not be that cheap to outsource to India. Pakistan offers a cheaper alternative and the world will realize that sooner rather than later.

If it were not for our close proximity to the lawless and backward Afghanistan, we would have been in a better shape. The negative publicity and hundreds of miles of unmonitored Pak-Afghan border doesn't help either.

Dawood Khan, Pakistan - 19 July, 2005

Thanks GOD, we've got it,

Thanks God, Your comments like other indians show that how keeningly you are watching our progress, and how fearfully and watchfully you want to get knowledge through our news websites and other information channels regarding our rapid progress, one thing i remind you that we have beaten you in games in you home and now its the turn of business and economy, get ready we are coming to conqueror,
I AM A PROUD PAKISTANI

ejaz chughtai, Pakistan - 19 July, 2005

Thanks!

I am really happy at last pakistan indirectly praised India's IT power and thanks for INDIA praising article.one thing to pakistan come to bangalore and learn some basic things about Computer software and networks.

Bangaloreboy, Hungary - 19 July, 2005

To harmeet

well Mr harmeet without defending ur case logically u have spitted against all the Pakistanis expressing ur hatered for Paksitan. Mr Momin whatever had written is his own analysis of the situation if u had read a comment from a fellow pakistani he had also objected to his article isnt it a proof that we see things logically, But you had called all the Pakistanis selfish well in my view i think you peopel cant hold all of us in the same position. secondly Mr Momin's article was an indication of the need for pakistanis not to depned on others and find some alternative mean next time. Mr harmeet plz dont proof without logics that you Indians can never hide your hatred towards Pakistan. Atleast we are big enough at heart that this tribune publish your comment without edditing.

Sobia Ahmad, Pakistan - 19 July, 2005

IT........!

Well,a nice wake up call,.. my dear president of pakistan cum Army cheif, prime minister & IT ministry guys. im sure none of us would like to end up a loser ??? anyways...supurb factsheet 'Momin iftikhar'...keep it up!

Robass, Pakistan - 19 July, 2005

Any sense?

Hello Author,
Do you have any commonsense? Are you really educated? You are a sick guy and writting this type of articles and making others to sick. If you stop writting this type of articles then our fellow pakistan citizens will start working with other countries and gain knowledge and improve our technology. You will not get anything by blaming others for their success. Growup man this is 21st century. If you think india is going to exlore pakistan Vulnerabilities why the hell we should ask their help and show our Vulnerabilities ? We should keep our mouth shut so that people like you won't write this type of articles in future. We are one of the backword country just because people like you. Who don't work and don't allow other to work. Sick man..

Mohamad, Pakistan - 19 July, 2005

Typical

I see this article a classic example of what ails Pakistan.

It goes like this - A problem, a few facts, prejudice. Mix it to gether with its 'up is down and down is up logic' re move commons sense and arrive at a bizaare conclusion.

The author forgets a simple fact. Where in the world - customers are flocking to pakistan that should worry India?

The only group that flocks Pakistan is Jihadi tourists. Yes that should worry India and others and for that matter anyone with common sense. Naturally.. who is not worried? .. Pakistan.

Mani, United Kingdom - 19 July, 2005

Fact Sheet

common sense shuold prevail in the mind of all readers.

Be constructive and get the numbers together.

let them break our internet connections we will break their gas line connection from Iran
Tit for tat ....!!!!!
may allah break their all internet lines ... kidding...



johar, Pakistan - 19 July, 2005

pak needs Mohammed...

hi mohammed, i like ur attitude ..pakistan need guys like u...who thinks practical.

Bangaloreboy, Hungary - 20 July, 2005

Disruption in communications

This incident happened or may be owing to some interference with cables but that is not the end. Government and PTCL must be looking into to have alternative system installed whereby future disruption is avoided. Keeping the attitude positive and working for the country will benefit all. Learning from others is not bad idea so long as you are loyal to your own country and government. PTCL can do a lot in the field of communication being a large concern. IT in Pakistan is not lagging behind and will catch up soon. I do have a high opinion of Pakistan Engineers and IT experts and they can tackle problems.

mohammad, United Arab Emirates - 20 July, 2005

Re: Johar

Johar,
If you break india gas connection we are the one who is going to loose income and we are the one who will be the responsible to pay for damages. Think practically and stop thinking negatively. Do you think they don't have any other work other than breaking out internet connections? They are not stupids like us. They are spending their time building more connections and getting more business from other countries and getting rich and we are thinking how to break and how to spoil others and it indirectly spoiling our future and we are going back ....

mohammed, Pakistan - 20 July, 2005

RE : Thanks GOD, we've got it, ejaz chughtai, Pakistan

Yes, u should be proud of Pakistan. but think ..For what..?
If u can not compete, then listen, watch, learn or collaborate..That first rule of management for PROGRESS. India has done it soon after independence by investing in educations (e.g. MIT, making education free upto college almost free) and not in Madressa. Don't blame some one for yr wrongs. We value every country's progress including Pakistan and not jealously. Look @Bangladesh. Excellent progress in exporting garments. Even this articles show India is investing heavily in Cables for future bandwidth needs but Pakistan is only depends on one source. Just blame Pakistani Planner.!!! & Not India. Learning is everyday processÖGood luck for positive progress in future.


swpneel, United Kingdom - 21 July, 2005

ejaz, just thought I will point out u a small thing. And this no boasting. ONGC is one of the 23000 compnies listed in BSE. The net value of ONGC is 2 times the net worth of WHOLE of Lahore SE. What are we comparing?

ejaz chughtai, United Kingdom - 21 July, 2005

This is really crazy

I don't think anybody in India will do that sort of thing. If the author thinks that it is some Indian company which did that, then let me tell you any big or small company won't make big with that kind of mind set. This kind of act is taken very seriously by world body or say IITF and IEEE. I am sure that any country including India and any company including all Indian companies not only know this fact but also they understand the after effects. If anybody thinks like this, he or she is really biased in his thinking. The person is not truthful with himself leave the countries. As far as rivalry between India and Pakistan is concerned, please we are not intrested. Both are great countries and both have problems, they are working on there problems, so let them work towards peace and harmony. Do not spread the wrong words, they spoil the whole environment.

Somebody, United Kingdom - 21 July, 2005

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