India's home ministry plans to meet mobile operators on Thursday to discuss allowing security agencies access to encrypted BlackBerry messages, a government official said.

Indian law stipulates phone companies have the responsibility to ensure that intelligence agencies can lawfully monitor data handled by them.

"The meeting will be on Thursday with the telecom companies on the BlackBerry issue," said the official Tuesday, not wishing to be named. He would not elaborate.

But the Hindustan Times said that the government planned to set a deadline for mobile operators to allow security agencies access to encrypted BlackBerry messages.

The newspaper said unless the telecom companies heed the warning, the government will disconnect encrypted BlackBerry services.

The intention is "to drive home the point the country's security concerns cannot be compromised," the newspaper quoted a home ministry official as saying.

The Canadian makers of Blackberry, Research in Motion, did not immediately respond to emails or phone calls.

India, battling insurgencies from Muslim-majority Kashmir to the far-flung northeast and mounting Maoist unrest, is highly sensitive about potential risks of new technology.

It has raised fears BlackBerry services could be used by militants to communicate without being detected.

India's government has been negotiating with RIM on security issues for two years. Officials believe a deadline would persuade RIM to take India's security concerns seriously, the newspaper said.

"We will tell the mobile service providers in categorical terms that the government will allow them to offer only those services which can be intercepted," the newspaper quoted the official as saying.

It came a day after Saudi Arabia extended indefinitely a reprieve on a BlackBerry messenger ban after a deadline passed for finding a solution allowing authorities to monitor the service.

Concerns have spread across the Middle East and parts of Asia over security issues involving the smartphones.

Comments