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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:

Think

This may sound irrelevant but think about this,
Indian Movies are banned in Pakistan but every Indian movie is watched by Pakistanis.


Aniruddha, Hungary - 21 July, 2005

losers compromise

what on the earth compelled the author to make allegations that INDIA was behind the severd internet links .pls understand india has achieved massive heights in IT sector and this growth didnt happen overnight.in past 1990 decade india concentrated much on education where in pakistan was busy setting up terroist camps.today india is reaping what it sowed and pakistan is reeping the terroisrm it sowed.look around whats happening in the world,pakistan image is tarnished e.g london bomb ....untill pakistan is going to root out the jihadi,extremkit,fundamentalist ,sectarian attitude ---pls understand foreign investment wil not flow.dont try to fool urself and your own people .stick to reality ,u need some guts to accept the fact that severed lines was because of natural cause ,dont just simply throw hatred on india .mind it -india is a lion in IT field and pakistan is just to start in IT .india doesnt even care abt pakistan .try to behave in a matured way

truth, United Kingdom - 21 July, 2005

I am surprised by the mutual allegations that Pakistanis and Indians are hurling at each other for an event resulting from accident. US and European IT market is so huge that even with stupendous growth Indian IT firms has only captured a small share of this market. It is a lot of space for new players to enter and grow. But you need sustained investment and commitment to higher education and infrastructure. Pakistan needs to focus on these areas to get a foothold in IT. At present only china seems to be posing any threat to India in terms of IT. I am sure Pakistan will work to overcome its deficiencies and create a conductive atmosphere for private entrepreneurs to invest and trap the potential of Pakistan in IT.

Indian IT professional, Hungary - 21 July, 2005

to ejaz the fool

The funniest comment posted ever. I you people can ever think of beating India in the field of IT.
First try to create a civilized society in Pakistan. Posting itching comments won't help you out
A proud Indian


ASIF, Hungary - 21 July, 2005

to mr sobia

"Atleast we are big enough at heart that this tribune publish your comment without edditing."

well mr sobia...
only me and the pak tribune knows that whether my article is published without editting or not....
pls ask this question to paktribune and u will know the reality...

harmeet, Pakistan - 21 July, 2005

Blame everything on India

It is pakistan's mistake not to have a backup, how come India gets mention in this article. Stop being obsessed with India. Grow up.

raj, Pakistan - 22 July, 2005

internet glitch


I found the article by Momin Iftekhar ridiculous and pointless. It's a fashion in the Islamic world to find fault with others when their own houses are not in order.
The governing logic is:"we are perfect, it's the others who are creating problems."
Even if the Pakistanis get loose motions, they will blame it on India. I am sure someone will say, "the Indians let in water from their dams laced with some sort of chemical so that Pakistanis get diarrhoea."
Go get a grip.

Farid Sheikh, India

farid sheikh, Hungary - 23 July, 2005

India will help u..

Dont worry pak..i m sure india will help you..but you should also help india by not spreading negative image of MY COUNTRY.

Bangaloreboy, Hungary - 24 July, 2005

Pakistan Must Protect Its Assets

I do say Pakistan must be prepared to protact its all assets including IT sector. Yes, true neighbour can tryto destroy Paki structure just to build the pressure. Higher Authorities must start to think and at least should be suspecious ever.

K Khan, Pakistan - 25 July, 2005

Only India is allowed to spread negatives on neighbours. Self defence is an Int. law. India must help 1st their public then Paki should ask for help. Be a friend, forget past.

K Khan, Pakistan - 25 July, 2005

what a article

first of all its the incompetence of PTCL for not having a backup plan, not having enough expertise to identify the fault, find where is it and finally inability to fix it. how come its India's fault. even if it was right then it serves pak right for being such ignorent.
secondly, writer says India trying to be an IT threat to pakistan, oh come on. give me a break. we re no way close to them. it will be our good luck if we can become a slight threat to them.

Hussain, Pakistan - 25 July, 2005

Wake Up NOW!!!

It doesn't matter what Indian or Paskitani govts, businessmen do, the main thing is that the PEOPLE of Pakistan need to wakeup and take a stock in themselves, in their future, in their country. For the past 58 years the people in power have done nothing constructive for the country, for the past 58 years God knows how the country is running because the lawmakers which the PEOPLE elect are corrupt, those who aren't get killed. There is still a lot of time, for sake of future the PEOPLE of Pakistan need to wake up and realize that they are FAR FAR behind from the rest of the world. Learn to love this great land of ours, do constructive things, learn to love not hate, stop preaching hatred, elect honest lawmakers, standup for your rights, there are lots of resources available but most of the time those resources are directed towards the corruption of the higher authorities, I cannot believe that there is only ONE link to outside world in this day and age, Learn to Love thy country, once that really happens you'll see how different things will be.

A. M. Rehman, United Kingdom - 27 July, 2005

wake up pakistan

i think after patition of india no one in pakistan loves Pakistan but all they do is hate India and Hindus..
If pakistani start loving their country than they will not blame every failure on India...I think it is high time that we must tell very boldly to pak brothers ..do not get too much obscessed with india and do not put too much pressure on Allah...
allah helps those who helps themself... in short a very bad article full of negative thoughts and no positive approach
salaam pakistan

ranjit bajwa, Pakistan - 30 May, 2006

hi pakistanies

hi,good news to pakistanies.india reach software exports 1,00,000 crores rupees.
what is devoloped in pakistan?


sekhar, Hungary - 02 June, 2006

Pakistan jindabad

Pakistan ids not vulnerable, India is, Pakitan is strong in everyway and is better than India. So what if Indian IT is looking at Pakistan, thy are only jealous of Pakitan.

Andy The currywalla, - 15 January, 2012

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