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Modi govt bans power gear imports from China amid border stand-off

  • July 03, 2020

The Ministry of Power on Friday announced import restrictions on equipment used for “power supply systems and networks”, citing security and cyber threats. While banning imports from China, the ministry said prior permission would be needed to import from countries in the ‘prior reference’ list, which includes China and Pakistan.

“All equipment, components, and parts imported for use in power supply systems and networks shall be tested in the country to check for any kind of embedded malware, Trojans, or cyber threat, and for adherence to Indian standards,” said the order issued by the ministry.

Power supply equipment include products used in transmission and distribution infrastructure of power, such as transmission towers, transformers, cables, meters, and motors. Some of them can be remotely monitored and operated. As power infrastructure is increasingly powered by information technology and artificial intelligence, its vulnerability to cyberattacks has also increased.

The electric equipment industry, in its representation to the ministry, had earlier flagged the threat of cyberattacks by China if that country’s power equipment continued to flood the Indian market, especially in the power distribution segment.

Addressing the states on Friday, R K Singh, Union minister of state for power, new and renewable energy, said they should stop giving orders to Chinese companies for power equipment. “The power system is vulnerable to malware attacks, which can shut down our communications, database, and defence systems. That is why all imports need to be inspected and a few countries need to be banned,” Singh said.

Singh was speaking at the State Power Ministers’ Conference, a congregation of power departments of all states, held through videoconferencing this year.

“We cannot tolerate a country that transgresses into our territory. We create jobs in that country when we have the ability to manufacture it (equipment) ourselves. We have decided not to buy from prior-reference countries. Any equipment imported will need permission. And we will not give permission for equipment from China and Pakistan,” Singh said.

The order, which followed the announcements, also stated that any import of equipment, components or parts from “prior-reference” countries would require prior permission of the government of lndia and would have to undergo testing in certified and designated laboratories approved by the ministry.

Singh urged the states they should avoid import of equipment for which there was sufficient capacity available.

According to the data collected by the Indian Electrical and Electronics Manufacturing Association (IEEMA), of the 58 identified equipment used in power supply infrastructure, there are only four products for which there is no domestic capacity. For two products, there is alternative technology available in India.

In the electrical equipment segment, imports from China constituted close to 30 per cent of the total imports worth Rs 71,570 crore in FY19. This includes power and distribution transformers, conductors, cables, meters, motors, switchgears etc. These equipment are mostly used in the power transmission and distribution sectors. The size of the Indian electrical equipment market is Rs 2.08 trillion. The domestic production accounts for Rs 1.9 trillion.

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