India’s Home Ministry says no to roaming calls in Pakistan

Cell PhoneGiven security risks, India’s home ministry has rejected a proposal by private telecom operators to sign international roaming agreements with service providers in Pakistan.

The rejection was based on a report submitted by India’s intelligence agency, Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW), which advised against such a cooperation with Pakistan.

“In view of the above, it is recommended that international roaming with Pakistan should not be permitted,” said RAW in the report.

The agency pointed out that advanced geophysical location trackers provide the capabilities to locate specific mobile phone device anywhere in the world. A roaming arrangement with the country in which the target is located allows the system to track movement and history of devices.

RAW argued that Pakistan being a ‘hostile’ neighbour may have an interest in tracking its probable contacts or operative in India. The facility, the report added, may be covertly extended to militant organisation in their country for carrying out subversive activities.

“Such systems are easily available in the world market and may be acquired by Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI,” said the R&AW in its report.

The proposal to allow roaming between India and Pakistan was also introduced in 2012. Mooted by the Department of Telecommunication (DoT), the home ministry has been apprehensive about the agreement.

Roaming services have been banned since 2004 over concerns of misuse. Terrorism and illegal betting on cricket has been a major concern for the home ministry.

“On border areas, roaming should not be allowed… but operators in India would like to have roaming agreements with as many countries as possible, if the government permits,” said Rajan Mathews, director-general, Cellular Operators Association of India.

Taking a contrary position to RAW, telecom operators argue that the use of geophysical location tracker (GLT) will help manage security issues.

RAW and Home Ministry are not convinced. According to the RAW, roaming facility will make enhance security risks for India’s defence personnel and VIPs were Pakistani intelligence to pass on details to terrorist organisations.