US India Cybersecurity Collaboration

The US and India met for a conference during the second week of August to discuss possible cybersecurity collaboration. At its closing, the two nations had made a commitment to a hearty plan that they feel with help them contend with today’s cybersecurity threats. China and the US have had similar talks, but with very different results.

India Looks to be a Promising Partner

Michael Daniel, the US Cybersecurity Coordinator and Special Assistant to the President, led the group of US and Indian government officials in talks about how the two nations could cooperate to better their abilities to handle various cybersecurity issues. The attendance was impressive, showing that both countries are serious about getting on top of the threatening situation. Officials came from the US Departments of Commerce, Homeland Security, Justice, State and Treasury. For India’s part, they sent their Deputy National Security Adviser along with officials from the ministries of Communication and Information Technology, External Affairs, and Home Affairs.

The US and several other nations have become keenly aware of their inability to adequately cope with more than a few cybersecurity issues. During the two-day conference, the US and India reviewed concerns about current cyber threats, what has been done to combat cybercrime, how cyber incidents are managed and how this can improve, as well as deciding if and how cybersecurity information can be shared, the challenges of Internet governance, and generally what the norms of state cyberspace behavior are, and how the two nations can cooperate to improve the whole cybersecurity situation.

Some key people from the private sector were also invited to participate in the discussions, sharing their perspectives on the digital economy and what can be done to encourage good business. Outside of the conference, the representatives from India had further dialogues with Lisa Monaco, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, and Antony Blinken, Deputy Secretary of State. In general, the representatives from the governments and private sectors of the two countries were of the same mind on the issues of current threats and challenges. China and Russia were naturally mentioned as these two countries pose the greatest menace at this time, and also according to predictions for the future. The suggestion of further activities was heartily welcomed as a necessary next step towards reinforcing the cybersecurity partnership plan that was hammered out during the talks.

One specific item that we can use here to illustrate the single-mindedness of the two nations is the issue of Internet governance. Traditionally, this topic has caused conflict. Additional dialogue on the subject was unable to bring nations closer to compromise but rather highlighted more differences in their views. This time, however, there was a striking similarity in the way that the two countries looked at Internet governance. Perhaps this is because they are this time thinking about the topic in light of cybersecurity and not as a way to bolster their international economic positions. In any case, India and the US agreed on the multi-stakeholder model as the preferred way to deal with the issue. This model encourages full cooperation of all who have a stake in the Internet, and so proves the willingness of the nations to cooperate fully for the good of all instead of focusing first on their individual interests.

The conference can indeed be called a success, and we can also say with confidence that the US and India are both serious about working to achieve serious results. This is a long term commitment on both sides, and they are already preparing to strengthen their cooperative relationship to make sure that the goals are reached. Another conference has already been set to take place next year in Delhi.

Contrast China

When the US and China had their dialogue on cybersecurity, it looked like almost the complete opposite of the more recent talks with India. China obviously has a very different way of looking at the issue. Straight off the bat there was already a problem when the two countries were unable to agree to meet regularly or at least within reasonable time periods to have fruitful discussions. The relationship has always been a strained one, and this reluctance just goes to show how much the two countries simply do not get along.

Cybersecurity dialogues between these two nations have been going on for more than a few years already, but they simply cannot seem to find any common ground. The new National Security Law of China has been pegged as one main cause for this, but we think that the law actually reflects instead the fundamental differences in outlook that cause the countries to naturally disagree. The relationship seems unlikely to improve if no common ground can be established, and especially if they are also reluctant to even consider that they are alike in any way. When one country believes that cybersecurity is about protecting the government and the other believes that it is about securing mostly private data, true cooperation is improbable.

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