Indian consulate in Atlanta warns travelers against carrying satellite phones to India

Satellite Phone in use (Courtesy of Steve Jurvetson from Menlo Park, USA)

Use of satellite phones by foreigners is banned in India.

The Consulate General of India in Atlanta has issued a warning against international passengers carrying satellite phones to India since it is banned in the country.

“Use of Thuraya or any satellite phones by foreigners is banned in India,” it said in a statement. “Foreign nationals traveling to India may please note that those carrying satellite phones in India will be prosecuted.”

India banned satellite phones more than a decade ago after they were found to have been used by terrorists. The security agencies have found that the terrorists that carried out the 26/11 attack in Mumbai had used satellite phones to communicate with their associates in Pakistan.

The Bureau of Civil Aviation Security has issued a circular to all airports in the country to seize satellite phones found during security checking.

Foreigners who carry the phones will also have to face prosecution under the provisions of the Indian Wireless Telegraph Act 1933, Indian Telegraph Act 1885, the Indian Penal Code and the Foreigners Order of 1948.

In several instances, foreigners had been arrested by the security agencies for bringing satellite phones. Two Australian nationals were held at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai last November for carrying satellite phones.

India doesn’t allow the use of satellite phones even if foreign nationals have valid documents permitting them to carry it. Since these phones depend entirely on another country’s satellite, the security agencies cannot track the calls real time and it is very difficult for them to collect call records.

However, in 2014, the Government of India allowed using satellite phones for adventure tourism. This has been a long-standing demand of tour operators since many places, including the Himalayan and North-East region, are not well connected with mobile phone service.

After having faced several difficulties in coordinating rescue operations during natural calamities, the government has decided to set-up its own satellite phone service. The government-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) has started providing satellite service to the government, security and rescue agencies.

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