Hikvision, a Chinese company, is seen in the race to bag contracts from RailTel Corporation of India for the supply of surveillance cameras, and if the deal materialises, the company's products could potentially find their way into the Indian Railway network, sources in the know told Moneycontrol.
The development is significant as the Indian government had in July 2021 imposed restrictions on investments and supplies from companies from countries sharing a land border with India following the deadly Galwan Valley clash with Chinese troops.
China-based Hikvision has bid on many tenders issued by RailTel for closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras, sources in the know said. However, these tenders are under evaluation and have not been awarded yet, sources said.
"The public sector utility will go by government guidelines. Before the norms that limited China came in, RailTel went by the lowest bidder. After the security norms kicked in, RailTel is following government guidelines," another source close to RailTel said.
The source added that in recent RailTel Vss tenders, there are only Indian bidders and none of them has offered cameras of HIKVISION.
Vendors from India's neighbouring states would be eligible to supply goods or services only if the entity is registered with the competent authority. The Indian government had also set up a registration committee to make sure tenders are not awarded without clearances. Political and security clearance from the ministries of external and home affairs was also made mandatory.
RailTel has put out eight tenders worth Rs 738.69 crore between August 2021 and May 2022, but has not awarded the orders till now.
Earlier this month, the Indian Railways had awarded a contract for the supply of 39,000 train wheels to TZ (Taizhong) Hong Kong International Ltd, a Chinese company, due to disruptions in global supply chains amid the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
Furthermore, in 2020, RailTel had cancelled a contract for 800 AI-based thermal surveillance cameras, after the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) flagged that the public sector utility had not reviewed restrictive conditions.
The DIPP had advised RailTel to modify or cancel the tender in its present form and frame broad-based specifications keeping in view the 'Make in India' order.
India and China have been at loggerheads over security concerns around increasing infrastructure around its borders.
The Indian government has also said that Chinese companies have been involved in attacking India's power grid, which has caused trains to shut down.
A study by Major General PK Mallick released in 2021 said that Chinese malware was flowing into the control systems that manage electric supply across India at the time when the armies from the two countries were involved in skirmishes along the Sino-Indian border, including near the disputed Pangong Lake in Ladakh and the Tibet Autonomous Region, and near the border between Sikkim and Tibet.
The study also added that the shutdown of trains in Mumbai, along with the power cuts in India's stock market was due to attacks by Chinese malware.The Maharashtra cyber department had also said that in their initial investigation about the October 2020 Mumbai power outage, they had traced the infusion of malware at the Padgha-based state load dispatch centre.