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Chinese executives say China’s telecom exports to India are about $3 billion annually, making them a significant chunk of India’s estimated $21.4 billion trade deficit with China last fiscal year.

That imbalance is a concern in New Delhi, which last year imposed antidumping duties on several companies, including Huawei and ZTE.

Some feel the trade gap and historical animosity _ India and China went to war in 1962 and still tussle over their border _ also lurk behind the tough new security norms.

None of the Department of Telecommunications’ official circulars single out Chinese companies for special sanction, but executives say security rules seem to be applied differently.

Some orders for equipment from Western companies got security clearance, while orders from Chinese companies did not, four executives said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic.

The Department of Telecommunications has also told telecom operators that certain companies _ including Huawei, ZTE and Lenovo _ have not been given security clearance to sell telecom equipment, according to a person who has seen one such letter. The person spoke anonymously for fear of undermining business relationships.

“Under the garb of security, they want to challenge the importing being done by Huawei, for example,” said Sandeep Ladda, an executive director at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Whatever the intent may be, the new rules will apply to everyone. Companies worry they could face huge liabilities for security problems outside their control and lose control of proprietary information at the core of their business.

In the event of a security breach, operators would face a penalty of 500 million rupees ($10.8 million) plus 100 percent of the value of the contract _ which often totals several hundred million dollars _ while equipment vendors could be blacklisted.

No other country imposes penalties of that size, and it’s rare to punish operators for security breaches, whose provenance can be hard to trace, said Rajan Mathews, director general of the Cellular Operators Association of India, a lobby group.

“We are uncomfortable but we don’t know if we have any leeway because the government has taken a hard stand,” he said.