With Internet governance likely to see an increased role for governments in coming years and with cyber security becoming central to the prosperity of nations, cyber diplomacy has emerged as a key focus area of foreign policy around the globe, eminent speakers at an international cyber conference Cyber 360 degrees said here on Tuesday.
The centrality of a cyber security pact in talks between US President Barack Obama and Chinese Xi Jinping this week and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s own dedication of a sizable chunk of his time in the US for interaction with Internet companies were cited as examples of the emergence of cyber diplomacy at the forefront of foreign policy issues at the conference.
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“The internet governance model that has been in existence over the past few decades is showing signs of change. Because the Internet developed in the US, it is natural that US companies have monopoly over the technical architecture. Governments have until now had little role in the running of the internet. But with the Internet Co-operation for Assigned Names (ICAN) now undergoing transformation, there may be some broad basing of internet governance model,” India’s deputy national security advisor Arvind Gupta said at the conference organized by the Synergia Foundation.
“During the last decade the internet has grown tremendously. Today over 3 billion people have access to internet. In the next 10 years the growth is likely to come from developing countries. The developing world will be a looking at a stake in the governance of the internet,” he said.
The interest shown by US companies in the Digital India initiative of the Indian government in the course of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US is an indicator of the importance of the Internet in the future scheme of things, the deputy NSA said. The emergence of cyber security as a key area of concern for countries means that it could be used for domination strategies, he said.
“We are seeing trends where trade may be used as an instrument of pressure on cyber diplomacy. The tendency to use export import regimes to restrict the flow of cyber security technologies and products is a concern. This is particularly a threat for emerging countries,” Gupta said.
“Cyber security has become an important element of foreign policy due to its relevance to national security, public safety and economic development. Developing interntaional agreements on how states should behave in cyberspace and how to achieve a stable and open Internet will become increasingly important for India as well,” the deputy NSA pointed out.
“The challenge before the government is to ensure that the Internet infrastructure being put in place is stable and secure. For that the government will also have to be sensitive to not just the national security concern but also the needs and sensitivities of the business,” Gupta said.
He said India has initiated dialogues on cyber security with the US, UK, Germany, the EU, France, South Korea, Russia, Japan and Australia where views have been exchanged on national cyber security policies, sharing of critical information, capacity building research and development and other issues. “Cyber diplomacy is a growing area. It requires an intricate knowledge of technology, law, politics etc. The Indian government is focussing on this,” he said.
Former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt pointed out that the importance of cyber security in foreign policy had been highlighted by the fact that cyber attacks were a central subject in talks during formal meetings between the US and Chinese presidents recently.
Former Indian National Security Advisor Shivashankar Menon said that cyber space had not disrupted the existing world order but had played a significant role in magnifying existing trends.
“It has become a fresh domain of contention between states. It is true of land, seas, skies and outer space all of which we have successfully militarized. Exactly the same thing is happening in cyber space. You see it when cyber attacks become one of the main subjects of a Xi-Obama summit and then you realize that cyber has come into its own,” Menon said.