India has given the maker of
BlackBerry phones a deadline of 31 August to provide the government access to
all of its services or face being shut down.
The country fears the device could
be used by militants and insurgents in a repeat of the 2008 attack on Mumbai
that left 166 people dead.
The central issue is how
governments monitor the encrypted traffic from Blackberry devices and is the
latest fight among makers Research In Motion (RIM) and international governments.
In a matter of a few weeks, the
BlackBerry device — long the darling of the world’s CEOs and politicians,
including U.S. President Barack Obama — has become a target for its encrypted
email and messaging services with governments around the world.
The Indian government said in a
statement that if their demands were not met mobile phone operators would be
required by law to close BlackBerry email and instant messaging services
running through their networks.
The Indian demands follow a deal
with Saudi Arabia, where a source said Research In Motion agreed to give
authorities codes for BlackBerry Messenger instant messaging users. The United
Arab Emirates, Lebanon and Algeria also seek access.
Bharti Airtel and Vodafone’s India
unit are the largest providers of BlackBerry services in India, the world’s
fastest growing mobile phone market.
A shutdown would affect one million
of the smartphone’s 41 million users. India is one of RIM’s fastest growing
If a shutdown takes effect,
BlackBerry users in India would only be able to use the devices for calls and
India wants access in a readable
format to encrypted BlackBerry communication, on grounds it could be used by
militants. Pakistani-based militants used mobile and satellite phones in the
2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people.
Officials say RIM had proposed
tracking emails without sharing encryption details, but that was not enough.