Columns/Op-Eds, In the News, Non-Traditional Security

Internet architecture can’t be left solely in hands of developed world

Global Times | 2013-11-7 19:58:01

Original link is here

According to World Bank estimates, India and China together account for more than 700 million Internet users. Citizens in both countries have embraced the digital sphere enthusiastically, and mobile phones and the Internet are the preferred platforms for anything and everything, from expressing opinions to conducting business.

Indian and Chinese stakes in cyber governance are already significant, and are only likely to increase as both continue connecting even the most rural hinterlands, which still suffer from lack of efficient physical connectivity.

Much future global wealth generation will be deeply integrated with the online sphere on account of access to new markets, online supply chains, services and Internet-based financial flows. Hence, India and China, as they seek to raise the incomes of their citizens, will need to transform into sustainable and secure digital economies. Digital governance, norms and rules, and International conventions must see India and China as rule-makers and not rule-takers.

The West, in the wake of the Edward Snowden revelations, is witnessing a new wave of support for discussing and negotiating a certain “code of conduct” for this global commons.

Although the current discussion is more on privacy and surveillance, there are other aspects that must also be vigorously debated.

New Delhi and Beijing must take the lead and articulate their positions and core interests on these issues, and see to it that they are addressed adequately. It is in no one’s interest to see a “virtual gridlock” and the World Wide Web becoming a “World Divide Web.”

The region’s success and prosperity are so closely linked to its successful integration that a divided digital domain may be detrimental to the region.

In fact, both India and China must learn from their predicament of dealing with the border legacy, and should ensure that discussions on cyberspace are not held prisoner to old notions of boundaries and rigid ideals of statehood.

The common prosperity of the two nations is linked to the digital future, and even lifeline provisions such as social security schemes, health and education among others are likely to be delivered through virtual means. Therefore, it is important for India and China to ensure that the world does not witness the birth of “digital sovereignty” where states contest, or of “digital capitalism” where commercial interests prevent this medium from being a global commons.

There are certain historic biases already. Technology, services and access reside with Western corporations and in Western capitals. The Internet must remain technology and geography-agnostic. Any global architecture for both hardware and software must ensure this.

Despite these converging objectives, the conversations between India and China on this subject, much like in other sectors, have been limited and impeded by suspicions and historic security concerns. It is time that the two nations go beyond these.

China seeks to be an influential player in telecommunications and the digital economy in India. And Indian IT companies are looking for a more hospitable environment.

A positive atmosphere and confidence building are a must for realizing these ambitions. In fact, Indian and Chinese companies can jointly lead the way in providing hardware and software solutions to developed and developing economies across the value chain.

To create an environment conducive to business and in order to shape an Asian discourse on cyber governance and cyber security, the two governments must seriously consider the following ideas.

One possibility is to create “cyber hot lines” between nodal agencies, such as between the Computer Emergency Response Teams in the two countries. They should also establish mechanisms for threats and vulnerability reporting and sharing information on gateways and access codes where required.

The two sides can also discuss responses and solutions to counter hacking and malware that threaten economic operations and businesses between and among parties in the two countries. Experiences on protecting critical infrastructure should also be shared. And, finally, they need to undertake joint development of low-cost digital access to, and affordable technologies for, the underprivileged segments of society.

In the News

The Curious Case of India and China

October 28, 2013, 9:36 am Comment

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Kyodo News-Pool/Getty ImagesManmohan Singh, left, prime minister of India, holding talks with Xi Jinping, president of China, sitting right opposite Mr. Singh, in Beijing, China, on Wednesday.

During his recent visit to China, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India said that when the two Asian giants shake hands, the world takes notice. Although the statement stands true, the real question to ask is whether the media and the security and diplomatic community in the two countries make much of this handshake. It can be argued India-China relations comprise a slew of missed opportunities, and these two have added yet another chapter to this narrative.

In recent years, India and China have engaged in a strategic dialogue, the term “strategic” being used loosely. The fifth edition of the dialogue was hosted by New Delhi in August. The leaders have been able to have uninterrupted annual summit-level talks, interact at annual meetings of the so-called BRICS countries and meet on the sidelines of Group of 20 and other global forums. India and China have had abundant high-level engagement.

Yet the conversation has not evolved. A 20th century grammar continues to define what surely must be the most important 21st century partnership. The only visible sign of deepening engagement remain the trade ties between the two countries that both governments use liberally to demonstrate the imagined “closer relations” and “successful” conduct of diplomacy.

It can be no one’s case that the growth of India-China trade relations has been facilitated by government actions. The relationship has grown despite the unwillingness of the two governments to go beyond contentious issues that are a carryover of the past. Two phases have defined this trade relationship: the Karol Bagh-Guangzhou phase, where the New Delhi shopping district among others in India saw a flood of cheap goods from Chinese manufacturing hubs, and the Mumbai-Shanghai phase, in which bigger enterprises in each country began to engage in trade.

Small business owners and traders in both India and China saw an opportunity and initiated a process of economic engagement that led to the flooding of Indian markets with affordable Chinese products, including mobile phones, firecrackers and even idols of Indian gods and goddesses. The entrepreneurs working at the bottom of the business pyramid crafted the first wave of Sino-Indian economic engagement, often taking huge risks and working under regimes unfavorable to conduct of business.

Increasingly these small traders have had company. Large industrial houses in Mumbai and Shanghai and other business centers have seen value in the relationship. Indian companies have been procuring high-value equipment in power, telecom and manufacturing sectors at competitive prices, and are now even raising commercial loans at favorable rates in China. Chinese businesses are showing an interest to invest in India’s infrastructure sector and are seeking increasing share in the growing consumer markets. The business communities have created this economic relationship based on opportunity and needs.

On the other hand, the governments in New Delhi and Beijing have shown remarkable consistency. Pedantic and unwilling to display leadership in resolving or nullifying the political hurdles, both governments have been guilty of holding back the economic integration of the two Asian giants.

The diplomatic and security establishments have undermined attempts to move the conversation beyond borders, visas and historic suspicions. Now anything and everything in the bilateral relationship is a security discourse. Basin level conversations amongst water experts and river communities are increasingly treated as a ‘security narrative’. China’s interest in the growing ports and roads and highways sector is limited by an imagined ‘security threat’ and India’s development of its northeast, instead of being viewed as an investment avenue for Chinese firms, is perceived to challenge the historic sovereign claims of China.

The Beijing and New Delhi relationship is prisoner to such conversations around security, and in many instances these originate out of Washington, London and Canberra and are not necessarily organic Indian and Chinese debates. The idea of a contest in the ‘Indo-Pacific’ and growing ‘Chinese Hegemony’ are now finding space in bi-lateral conversations. As a result, India and China are nowhere close to integrating land, water, men, material, markets and resources – imperatives in realizing the immense potential of the relationship. Every engagement has an inflexion point and what some in the Indian research community wonder is whether the current summit is that point for the two countries. The question to be asked, therefore, is whether the current visit has injected new life in the path toward sustainable reconciliation.


Biju Boro/Agence France-Presse — Getty ImagesIndian army personnel at the India-China border at Bumla pass in Arunachal Pradesh, on Oct. 21, 2010.

Some aspects of the India-China relationship must be examined if we seek to address this. The first aspect must be the border. While the imprecise Line of Actual Control has been a source of occasional tensions between India and China, it has to be acknowledged that confrontations along the border have not taken a violent turn. Nonetheless, the frequency of such face-offs and the increasing military capabilities in the backdrop of rising nationalism on both sides amplify the possibility of such incidents spiraling out of control.

In this regard, the Border Defense Cooperation Agreement signed by India and China is a significant step that takes forward initiatives agreed upon by both parties to maintain peace and tranquillity along the border since 1993. Steps under the agreement, like the exchange of information regarding military exercises, the possibility of setting up of hotlines and an agreement to not follow or trail each other’s military patrols, are important, albeit incremental gains.

Naysayers continue to push pessimistic views. One school of thought represented by analysts like Brahma Chellany, argued that China used the Depsang incident in April 2013 to arm-twist India into agreeing to Chinese terms on border management. In the spring this year, Chinese troops had crossed deep into Indian territory and set up camp in Depsang Valley, Ladakh.

On the other hand, those (mostly the business community as of now) who see value in engagement want to move beyond the border issues and make it less significant to propelling economic relations. For them, the border agreement is a way to achieving this. Pessimists, however, abound, and instead of seeing the situation for what it is — full of opportunities, if one chooses to recognize them — they push a “status quo” line. The traction that this group is able to generate in the media and public sphere, which feeds off Sinophobia, completely overwhelms any counterview. Hence, a lasting border solution must be what the countries should seek, and the current arrangement can only be a temporary dressing for the festering wound that will hold the relationship back.

Both sides, sadly, have been petulant on the issue of liberalizing visa policies. The recent episode in which the Chinese Embassy issued stapled visas (signifying a refusal to recognize their state as part of India) for sportspersons from Arunachal Pradesh, and the resultant uproar from the Indian side killed the possibility of opening up the visa regimes. All that was required was some bureaucratic flexibility and magnanimity on China’s part and some creativity on India’s part – linking a liberalized visa regime to agreeing with India’s position on the Arunachal Pradesh issue (for visa purposes), without prejudice to historic territorial claims. Yet again, China maneuvered itself into a position from where retreat would mean a loss of face, and yet again India failed to grab the opportunity when it presented itself.

The trade imbalance of almost $20 billion with China continues to be a prickly issue, and the two missed another chance to address this when the visit failed to create pathways for increased Chinese investments in India. Although Mr. Singh articulated his interest in attracting Chinese investment to India before he embarked on his visit, concrete steps in this direction remain elusive. Chinese investment in setting up industrial parks and other infrastructure projects is one obvious hedge against the trade deficit.

Enabling the establishment of service centers by Chinese power companies in India is certainly a big step forward and a positive emerging from the current talks. This would allay concerns raised by some in the Indian security establishment on the proliferation of Chinese equipment in the power sector. These alarmist concerns related to the possibility that India, were it to purchase such equipment from China, could be stranded with the proverbial white elephants because of a lack of supply of spares and services.

Water made it to the laundry list this time and must be viewed as a significant positive as this must certainly be a first when China has agreed to such a conversation with a lower riparian. The two have agreed to share hydrological data on transborder rivers and exchange views on associated topics of mutual interest. This gives India the window to approach China with regard to the construction of dams on the Brahmaputra. Similarly, the memorandum of understanding on roadways and transportation identifies several areas for cooperation, including sharing knowledge in transportation technology, road construction standards, road safety plans, joint research and sharing experience related to public-private partnership models. This can be seen as laying the foundation for creating infrastructure to connect Asia.

Economics has proved to be a major factor in political reconciliation elsewhere. However, in the case of India and China, economic engagement is hitting a political wall. Only a political thrust can help realize what should otherwise seem inevitable: India and China becoming the world’s largest bilateral trade partnership.

India has to learn from others. The United States is implementing its pivot strategy in Asia in an attempt to create partnerships to balance a rising China, yet Washington has reached the $500 billion mark in its trade with Beijing. Japan, which had the most unfavorable image among Chinese according to a local opinion poll, manages a $300 billion trade engagement. Despite political differences and contests, there is pragmatism at work here.

Today, India requires $1 trillion of infrastructure investment every five years for at least the next two decades. China has the potential to be the largest stakeholder in this effort. Investments by China will also automatically create security hedges favoring India and help offset the trade deficit. In return, India offers China the opportunity to continue its impressive economic growth. Its capacities in steel, cement, power and industry can now be deployed in the transformation of India, and in return such economic ventures will boost China’s gross domestic product by some basis points. We are at that political moment when Asia could be integrated like never before.

Unfortunately, the two pillars of the dawning Asian century are still prisoners to their perceived insecurities and imagined magnificence. They seem condemned to “never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity,” as one wise man had once remarked.

Columns/Op-Eds, In the News

‘No’ to peeping Sams

original link is here

Monkeys in jpeg

The challenge of cybersecurity lies in protecting people without entering their private space or making ‘national security’ an excuse to trample on their freedoms

L’affaire Snowden is the story of three governments. The first is one that claims to protect its own citizens while snooping on everybody else; the second is a government that claims to value personal freedoms above all but actively colludes with the first to violate its citizens’ freedoms and then cover up its footprints. The third is a government that simply does not seem to care about its words or the consequences they bear.

Edward Snowden’s revelations point to certain checks and balances being observed — if only on paper — by the United States government in the surveillance of its citizens. No such checks were applied to foreigners, be they in America or their respective countries. Data-mining is a complex interdisciplinary operation that involves computers looking at vast amounts of information and finding what are euphemistically referred to as “points of interest.” In the marketing industry, data-mining would help businesses target you for the sale of specific products that you might be interested in. In security, this becomes the basis for a warrant to allow a human to start scanning your personal correspondence — if you are a U.S. citizen. If you fall into the non-U.S. citizen category, no warrants are required.

Remorseless America

What is pertinent here is how far America has strayed from its founding principles of personal freedom and political liberty. It seems the pendulum has swung so far that the debate is no longer about whether the government should have any right to monitor citizens but rather about what the standards and procedures for extraordinarily intrusive surveillance should be. Nowhere is this better reflected than in the curious volte face of Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz on the subject. Once termed “the nation’s most peripatetic civil liberties lawyer,” post-9/11, Mr. Dershowitz was actively advocating torture, including of methods like shoving a sterilised needle under suspects’ fingernails. The debate in the public sphere has become so securitised that ‘national security’ is now a ticket to trample on every right and freedom the U.S. once held sacred. If former President George W. Bush Jr. jeopardised individual liberty with the Patriot Act, President Barack Obama has bestowed on his government the right to be a virtual presence in the lives and bedrooms of billions of people around the world, without care, remorse or even an explanation.

Another disappointment — probably indicative of this societal shift in America on the subject of privacy — is the stand of the American press on the issue. Far from Snowden’s revelations igniting a debate on privacy versus security, the media seems to have bought the security narrative lock, stock and barrel. Evidently, the developments of 1971, when Daniel Ellsberg was feted as a hero of liberty by the U.S. media for his leaks of ‘Vietnam Lies’, forcing a policy reversal on the part of the U.S. government, have been long forgotten. Every U.S. media outlet has gone to great lengths to explain the legality and due process of the PRISM spying apparatus and has almost uniformly shown Snowden in a poor light. The inescapable conclusion is that the U.S. media is probably the most socialised, managed and supine media in existence today — buying into the government’s security narrative instead of challenging it.

The United Kingdom and Europe, on the other hand, have a vibrant media which, for better or worse, challenges both ideas and authority on a daily basis. Since the Snowden leaks were made public, the German and British media in particular have mercilessly pilloried their governments for their subservience to America and their collaboration in the blatantly illegal surveillance of European Union citizens. Their attacks have been so sharp that British Foreign Secretary William Hague had to address criticism in Parliament within hours of the first revelations. Further revelations have since put him on the back foot. The ever idealistic ‘Eurocracy’ has tapped into the public outrage and labelled U.S. surveillance as equivalent to an act by an enemy government.

Governments, though, cannot be run on idealism. It was for this reason that the EU released its cyber security doctrine earlier this year. It repeatedly referred to the EU’s core values of freedom of expression and privacy. The document is ostensibly developed around these “core values.” But this is a vacuous claim, because even as this document was being released, EU countries were actively prying into the private lives of their citizens. Unlike the U.S. government which protected its own citizens by some form of due process, European governments allowed their own citizens’ privacy, enshrined in EU and national law, to be blatantly violated. It is however precisely because of a vigilant and free press that European governments are now trying everything they can to cover up their illegal actions, failing which most European leaders would probably be facing jail sentences and premature retirement.

The last story — and possibly the saddest — is that of India. A few weeks ago, India released its National Cybersecurity Doctrine which merely paid lip service to privacy. Hardly a week later, CCTV footage from the Delhi metro of couples getting intimate were found on a pornographic website. The episode summarises India’s callous approach to its citizens’ privacy — not caring about privacy, on the one hand, and the complete lack of enforcement, on the other. India ostensibly already has a privacy regime that is clubbed with the outsourcing bill, not to protect Indians but to keep the outsourcing industry competitive by guaranteeing protection to foreigners. Theoretically, another standalone privacy bill is on the anvil. However as the Delhi CCTV footage incident shows, enforcement is non-existent, as is the security of gathered data. The implications for internal security here are grave. After all, if voyeurs can get their hands on CCTV footage of public installations for a fee, imagine what kind of secrets terrorists could pry out.

This episode tells another story too; one of public apathy and voyeuristic delight, on the one hand, and lack of government sensitivity, on the other. Why haven’t heads rolled at Delhi Metro? Who has been apprehended for leaking surveillance footage? Which minister ought to resign for this incompetence and negligence? The government has been blasé about the entire Snowden episode as well. Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid played down reports on U.S. surveillance on Indian citizens, calling it “cyber-scrutiny,” while other members of the government chirped in nonchalantly that “we have similar systems in place.” It is frightening to imagine India with U.S. or EU level surveillance capabilities without having either constitutional or procedural capacities to ensure that individuals and society are not harmed.

All is fair

Indeed, our checks and balances against the violation of privacy have failed miserably. The Supreme Court has claimed there was nothing it could do about entities like Google and Yahoo which were implicit in PRISM on the grounds of their lack of local agency. This is a tendentious argument, given that Google has enough ‘local agency’ to send advertising fliers to every business marked on Google maps in India, and advertise on Delhi FM radio channels. The press for its part seldom lets the laws or privacy come in the way of a good story. The competitive impulse to dominate ‘media space’ prevents the separation of true investigative reporting from actions that would intrude and tarnish people by disclosing private details and running media trial(s). Everything and everybody is now fair game in a hyper-‘mediated’ India.

As India evolves its cyber-fibre, it has many lessons to absorb. On the one hand, enforcement is a sine qua non of any law. On the other hand, the government needs to realise that cyberspace is not your normal run-of-the-mill state highway that state agencies can regulate, patrol and police. The cyber-highway runs through our bedrooms and living rooms. The challenge of cybersecurity and governance is how to protect people in their bedrooms and in the conduct of their private lives, without having to enter their private space. This remains the ‘holy grail’ no one seeks, or wants, to discover.

In the News, Water / Climate

Bangladesh Online Research Network report on ORF’s water security report, 2011

Bangladesh, 2011
Link to original website

Water Security in South Asia: Issues and Policy Recommendations
This brief is largely based on several discussions organised at Observer Research Foundation over a period of time. These discussions were enriched by the presence of some of the well-known experts on water issues in the country, like former Union Minister for Water Resources, Dr. Suresh Prabhu, current High Commissioner of Bangladesh, Tariq Ahmad Karim, Mr. Sunjoy Joshi, Director, Observer Research Foundation, Ms. Clare Shakya, Senior Regional Climate Change and Water Adviser, DFID*, India, Mr. Samir Saran, Vice President, ORF and Dr. Dinesh Kumar, Executive Director, Institute for Resource Analysis and Policy, Hyderabad.

It is estimated that by 2030, only 60 per cent of the world’s population will have access to fresh water 1 supplies . This would mean that about 40 per cent of the world population or about 3 billion-people would be without a reliable source of water and most of them would live in impoverished, conflictprone and water-stressed areas like South Asia.

Water is already an extremely contentious, and volatile, issue in South Asia. There are more people in the region than ever before and their dependence on water for various needs continues to multiply by leaps and bounds. The quantum of water available, for the present as well as future, has reduced dramatically, particularly in the last half-acentury. This is due to water-fertiliser intensive farming, overexploitation of groundwater for drinking, industrial and agricultural purposes, large scale contamination of water sources, total inertia in controlling and channelising waste water, indifferent approach to water conservation programmes and populist policies on water consumption. SOURCE: Observer Research Foundation