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India Threatens to Shut Down BlackBerry Services

Officials in India have ordered the maker of BlackBerry mobile devices to grant access to their email and instant messaging services by the end of the month, or risk being shut down.

India has warned that it could block email and messaging services on BlackBerry phones if the Canadian company which makes the phone does not address its concerns by August 31st. The deadline was set after the government held talks to restrict BlackBerry services.

Thursday's meeting between officials of the Interior Ministry, security agencies and the state-run telecom provider was held after the government expressed concerns about not being able to monitor data sent via e-mail or messaging on the popular BlackBerry mobile device.

Officials say Thursday's meeting was inconclusive.

India wants the Canadian company that makes the phone, Research in Motion, to give it access to encrypted data transmitted via the handset.

The government is worried that BlackBerry services can be used by terrorist organizations because security agencies cannot intercept the communication.

Indian cities have been the victims of many terror attacks, including daring raids in Mumbai in 2008 which killed at least 165 people. India is also battling insurgencies in the northeast and in Kashmir.

Wing Commander Ajey Lele at New Delhi's Indian Defense and Analyses Institute says the government's concerns stem from the increasing use of sophisticated technology by terrorist organizations, both inside and outside the country.

"Particularly when 26/11, that means the attacks on Mumbai happened, it has been found that satellite phones were used by the people who were involved in these sort of acts. Again the help from GPS [Global Positioning System] was taken," said Lele. "Indian agencies have understood that terrorist organizations are using technology in a very big way and they are using all sorts of modern gadgets. Particularly, Blackberry offers them an advantage."

Indian media reports say the government is mulling a possible ban on Blackberry's e-mail and messaging services. That would mean users of the phone would only be able to use it to make calls or browse the net.

The government wants telecom operators to offer services which can be intercepted by security agencies.

India is one of the world's fastest growing telecom markets, with more than 500 million users.

India is one of several countries seeking access to encrypted BlackBerry communication. The company which makes the device has reached a deal with Saudi Arabia to allow monitoring of its messaging service.