The two major economies of the world, India and US will hold consultations and take steps towards enhancing cyber collaboration on critical infrastructure, cybercrime, and malicious cyber activity
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has completed another successful visit to the US. Apart from the brilliant speech at the US Congress, one of the hallmarks of this trip was the extensive discussion with the US President Barack Obama on cyber security cooperation and this is likely to lead to the signing of a very comprehensive Framework for the US-India Cyber relationship within next 60 days.
Right from day one, PM Modi was very clear on cyber security priorities and understood the potential of India’s soft power and the inherent intellectual strength and also the impact of IT to transform India. Apart from operationalising the UPA announced but poor implemented National Cyber Security Policy of May 2013, he also energised India’s cyber diplomacy hitherto confined to being silent observers in global shape up sessions on cyber security and Internet governance. In no time cyber security became part of bilateral and multilateral dialogues including BRICS and G20. In July last year at the inauguration of the Digital India week, the PM gave the bugle call for cyber security to be an integral part of the national security apparatus and described the cyber related risks as a global threat of ‘bloodless war’.
In this context, the India-US cooperation in cyber is more relevant and timely. There are many areas involving technology and high technology areas where relations have been established and nurtured in the last few years between the two countries and today the idea of co development and co production in defence is also being pursued actively. The confidence building in areas of defence, space and nuclear cooperation which all hinge on technology is the right indicator for moving ahead in cyber issues. While India has a lot of catching up to do, the very dynamic nature of the medium and technology keeps the US also on the need for constant upgrades and cooperation.
As envisaged in the recent, fact sheet, PM Modi and US President Obama have reaffirmed their commitment to an open, interoperable, secure, and reliable Internet, underpinned by the multistakeholder model of Internet governance. Their commitment to enhance cyber collaboration on critical infrastructure, cybercrime, and malicious cyber activity by state and non-state actors is very crucial. These are areas where India needs a lot of support and handholding from the US side so that capacity building and realistic cybersecurity research and development take place in India with dedicated funding. At the same time the commitment to continue the dialogue and engagement on Internet governance issues in various fora including The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and IGF is crucial as the world has still to come to a basic agreement on cyber issues. Despite the engagements at various fora, there is no consensus on many issues and India-US hand holding alongwith many other likeminded countries could shape a global agreement on crucial issues like cyber crimes and cyber terrorism. India has come a long way from proposing the 50 nation CIRP at the UN General Assembly in 2009 to run the internet to accepting and actively espousing the multistakeholder model. Another significant aspect of the meeting is the agreement by both the leaders to promote the voluntary norms of responsible state behaviour in peacetime, including the norms as identified by the UN Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) in the field of Information and Telecommunications in the context of international security. In all the GGE, India has significantly contributed to the greater understanding and cooperation on cyber norms. The commitment to the voluntary norms that no country should conduct or knowingly support online activity that intentionally damages critical infrastructure or otherwise impairs the use of it to provide services to the public and that no country should conduct or knowingly support activity intended to prevent national computer security incident response teams from responding to cyber incidents, or use its own teams to enable online activity that is intended to do harm is significant.
While many aspects of the framework look at robust cyber diplomacy, the greater realisation of capacity building and trade and commerce related to cyberspace is also enabled. Needless to say the timing is right and once the framework is signed, it will usher in a much closer working relationship between the two leading countries on cyberspace infrastructure and issues.
(The writer is currently a member of the Research Advisory Network (RAN) of the Global Commission on Internet Governance (GCIG) and a well known cyber policy analyst)