India Not Eager to Hop On to China’s Cyber Sovereignty Bandwagon

Seeking to overpower Western hegemony over the Internet, China is set to pitch its cyber sovereignty policy to BRICS members during the upcoming summit. However, some critics are voicing concerns that the cyber sovereignty policy could end up curbing Internet freedom.

An Indian youth uses the internet at a cyber cafe in Allahabad, India. - Sputnik International
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New Delhi (Sputnik) — India may not cosy up to a Chinese proposal in the next round of BRICS Summit to promote and bind member states into a multilateral treaty on “cyber sovereignty”. This allows each BRICS member country to govern cyber space in the manner they want without facing interference from other countries, but is in contrast to calls for Internet freedom in China.

“As BRICS host this year, China stands ready to work together with Russia and other BRICS partners,” Long Zhou, Coordinator, Cyber Affairs Division of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, told reporters in Beijing on Friday after releasing a white paper on the subject.

China, which is due to host the BRICS summit in the second half of this year, has restricted free access to the Internet and has banned international sites like Goggle, Facebook and Twitter besides scores of foreign media sites. In fact, many of these websites have Chinese versions and are actively backed by the government.

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India has its own conception and agreements with countries like Russia on the idea of cyber sovereignty and will be reluctant to support a BRICS-wide pact, says Arun Mohan Sukumar, Head, Cyber Security and Internet Governance Initiative at New Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation.

"It is unlikely India will agree to a separate BRICS pact on ‘cyber sovereignty’. New Delhi has already endorsed the principle that countries should be allowed to perform their sovereign functions – protect its critical infrastructure, prevent cyber crimes etc – in cyberspace. We have a Memorandum of Understanding with Russia signed last year during the Goa BRICS Summit, for precisely this purpose,” he told Sputnik.

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And there are practical issues involved from an Indian standpoint besides the current state of Sino-Indian ties. “The precarious state of Sino-Indian ties aside, it is not practical to expect New Delhi’s cyber regulators to push for complete control over cyber space, as most of our servers are located abroad. So India hardly exercises any control over our networks and servers. Unlike China, we do not follow data localization policies,” he said.

Chinese officials maintain that the Internet is free in China, and only a small section of websites that “undermine” the country's national interests are banned.

“The Chinese Internet is fully open. As long as they comply with Chinese laws and regulations, refrain from undermining China’s national interests and interests of Chinese consumers, all Internet companies are welcome in China,” said Wang Jianchao, International Cooperation Department of the Cyberspace Administration of China.

The white paper, “International Strategy of Cooperation on Cyberspace”, is China's first comprehensive policy document explaining Beijing’s Internet strategy.

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