Pre-paid cellphones a security risk, says Indian govt

India’s home minister said on Wednesday that pre-paid cellphones may be banned in the disputed region of Kashmir as concerns grow that they are impossible to trace if used to trigger bombs.

Cellphones were launched in Kashmir only in 2003 after security agencies gave the go-ahead, but unnamed officials have recently said that phones with pre-paid SIM cards have been employed in explosive attacks.

“We may have to ban pre-paid [SIM cards] in the Kashmir valley for some time,” P Chidambaram said on a visit to the Muslim-majority state where a separatist insurgency has raged since 1989.

He said there was “a vast difference from the security point of view” between pre-paid cellphones, which can be bought without detailed identification, and contract-paid cellphones.

Cellphones paid by monthly contract—called post-paid in India—can only be bought after a series of security checks and official registration of personal details and passport photographs.

“We are persuading people to switch over to post-paid SIM cards,” Chidambaram told reporters in Indian Kashmir’s summer capital Srinagar.

Kashmir’s insurgency against rule from New Delhi has left more than 47 000 people dead by official count, though separatists put the toll at between 80 000 and 100 000.

The region is divided between Pakistani and Indian zones, but both countries claim it in whole and have fought two wars over its fate.—AFP

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