On 25 February, US President Donald Trump met Indian businessmen, who have invested in the United States or are planning to do so, to listen to their plans and concerns about their businesses.
Mukesh Ambani, the managing director of Reliance Industries, was one among the businessmen who interacted with Trump during the event.
Speaking at the event, Ambani told Trump that he has invested close to $7 billion in the US. But the conversation between the two took an unlikely turn when Ambani mentioned his plans in the telecom sector.
No sooner did he mention telecom, Trump asked him if Reliance was also going to invest in 5G. Responding to his question, Ambani confirmed that his company had plans to invest in 5G network and added an interesting piece of detail.
He said Reliance is the “only network in the world which does not have a single Chinese component”. Trump, however, had already interrupted him before he could finish the above statement saying “Huawei”.
Here are the relevant parts of the transcript of their conversation as put out by the White House on its website on 26 February:
Ambani: A warm welcome, President Trump. I’m Mukesh Ambani from Reliance Industries.
Ambani: We are investors in the United States in the energy sector (inaudible).
Trump: Yeah. Big one. Yeah.
Ambani: We have over seven billion —
Trump: Seven billion. Big one.
Trump: Right, sure.
Ambani: Of course, we also take (inaudible) and bring it to India (inaudible).
Trump: Right, exactly.
The other thing is that the United States has been — again, small companies and large companies have been key partners in transforming India’s telecom (inaudible). (Inaudible) last few years, 4G network.
Trump: Right. You’re doing 4G. Are you going to do 5G too?
Ambani: We’re going to do 5G. We’re the only network in the world that doesn’t have —
Ambani: — a single Chinese component. (Inaudible.)
Trump: Well, that’s good. Good. Put a bid in. (Laughter.)
I have to thank you personally for your leadership, not only like what you’ve done in the US but the entire (inaudible) effect on all of us. In India, we could have never imagined the income tax rates have gone down with Prime Minister Modi —
Trump: They followed us.
The full transcript is available here.
This is interesting because President Trump and his administration has been leading the attack on the Chinese telecom firm Huawei due to its links to the Communist Party of China and its military arm, the People’s Liberation Army.
This has been a point of friction between China and the US, with the former claiming that Huawei is an independent company.
However, according to a recent paper on the topic, “key mid-level technical personnel employed by Huawei have strong backgrounds in work closely associated with intelligence gathering and military activities”.
A debate on whether the Narendra Modi government should allow Huawei to be part of India’s 5G infrastructure has been raging in India with many security experts warning against it. The US raised this issue during Trump’s India visit.
The Modi government, however, is yet to take the final call, and has allowed the Chinese company to participate in India’s 5G trials.