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External Affairs Minister's Speech at the Valedictory Function of ''Global Conference on Cyber Space'' (November 24, 2017)

November 24, 2017

My esteemed colleague Sh Ravi Shankar Prasad,
Minister for Electronics & IT and Law & Justice

Shri Ajay Sawhney,
Secretary, Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology

Ms. Patricia Zorko,
Director, Ministry of Security & Justice, Netherlands Government

Mr. Michael Walma,
Cyber Foreign Policy Coordinator, Canadian Policy of Foreign Affairs

Ms. Debjani Ghosh,
President Designate, NASSCOM

Shri Sanjay Kumar Verma,
Additional Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs

Shri Ajay Kumar,
Additional Secretary, MeitY Shri Sanjeev Gupta P&CEO, Digital India Corp


I am delighted to be present here to speak at this Conference. It is a great pleasure to note that this is the first time when this Conference is taking place outside of the OECD Nations. This shows the growing importance of India in the world space and the increasing confidence in Indian leadership under Prime Minister Modi.

Today, as we conclude one of the biggest Conferences on Cyber Space, we become part of a historical process that began in 2011 with the London Conference.

With over 3000 delegates participating in person and equal member through Webinars and hackathons, the GCCS2017 has become a process that, has initiated several conversations on the complex issues in cyberspace and carried forward the debate on most pressing issues facing Cyberspace.

We have moved ahead from only cyber security to the security of the Cyberspace, using tools of diplomacy and international cooperation.

Our aim during the Conference and through the several side events was to gather round the table, the most knowledgeable experts on the subject. It helped us to share knowledge, enhance common understandings and build consensus on possible policy options for meeting the current and future challenges in cyberspace.

We hope that the intense discussions during various sessions have enriched the debate, identified the threats that need resolution and paved the way for more enlightened debate in future.

Cyberspace, as we all know, is a complex domain that goes beyond our understanding of traditional domains of land, sea, air and space and its unique attributes present its own set of opportunities and challenges. The increasing use of Information and Communication technologies has not only generated social awareness, accelerated economic development, improved delivery of services to citizens and placed unprecedented power and information at the hands of an individual.

It has also led to social and economic transformations of nations and changed the way people communicate with each other and carry out their businesses. India’s own far-reaching journey of transformation gives pride of place to our people.

Our national programmes of Digital India, Clean Ganga, Renewable Energy, Smart Cities, Housing for All and Skill India are laying the basis for inclusive development.

Our Government is committed to using the cyber & digital platforms to foster growth and empowerment of the people, and to:

  • an open, interoperable, secure, free and reliable cyberspace environment;
  • promote the Internet as an engine for innovation, economic growth, and trade and commerce; § promote the free flow of information;
  • promote cooperation between and among the private sector and government authorities on cybercrime and cyber-security;
  • respect cultural and linguistic diversity.
This commitment has translated into the vision of Digital India under the leadership of PM Modi. Digital India holds the potential to truly transform India from a developing into a developed knowledge economy.

The Digital India program with its focus on three key vision areas – infrastructure as a utility to every citizen, governance and services on demand and digital empowerment of citizens – has the potential to provide an incremental 20- 30% increase in India’s GDP by 2025.

The very dynamic and evolving nature of cyberspace has brought cyber issues to the centre stage of development polity, crime prevention and investigation, expansion of economy and trade and finally to the subject of national and international security.

The fact that almost all activities - political, social, economic and developmental are now conducted in and connected to cyberspace has not only expedited the pace of growth but also brought forth a new set of challenges for which no preset solutions exist.

The lack of borders in cyberspace and the anonymity of the actors has ensured that the traditional concepts of sovereignty, jurisdiction and privacy are challenged. The technological revolution has out-spaced our collective capacities to re-define our understanding of these issues yet and the global community , which has so far been too enamoured by the benefits of cyberspace, is beginning to wake up to its threats.

Huge conglomerations of Cyber experts in forum such as the Global Conference on Cyberspace is a testimony of the fact that the nations need to engage with each other to redefine concepts and align traditional processes to the new paradigms. India is committed to the objective of having an open, safe, secure, inclusive, democratic and dynamic cyberspace that responds swiftly to Challenges. It will also promotes social, economic and all round development and prosperity of nations.

Our hosting of GCCS 2017 is a reflection of our commitment. The debate on the challenges of cyberspace now occupies considerable space in global conversations on International security while differing perspectives of countries to meet these complex challenges has inserted a significant element of geopolitics into the issue.

The growing significance of the Cyber issues in International arena cannot be exaggerated. It is reflected in the growing conversations across the world at all high level summits, interactions and conferences.

That there is barely a meeting between the Heads of the States which goes without a discussion on cyber issues, points to the growing penetration, significance and criticality of Internet to the social, economic and cultural lives of the nations.

The linking of devices and the growing internet of things has made cyber issues a critical aspect of both Cyber security and Development politics.

Moreover, even as the peaceful uses of ICTs have fuelled the expansion and growth of cyberspace penetrating and connecting the lives of citizens across the globe, cyberspace has also been infiltrated by malicious actors looking out for opportunities to exploit vulnerabilities.

The anonymity, borderless spaces and speed, have helped these elements to carry out nefarious activities ranging from Cyber espionage, concerted attacks on networks, data theft, infringement of privacy and extremist propaganda, to name a few.

Friends,

Crime syndicates and terrorist organisations now leverage malicious tools in cyberspace to carry out complex crimes posing considerable challenges to the Law enforcement Agencies.

The disappearance of the traditional concepts of borders and the speed of proliferation of crime has heightened the need to enter into agreements and arrangements among countries for cooperation at various levels.

Further, as more and more developing countries take to digital space to carry out developmental activities, new mechanisms for international cooperation need to be evolved.

The Conference theme took into account these varied aspects and planned its sessions around the theme of digital inclusion, cyber security, cyberspace as a tool for accelerating implementation of sustainable development and promotion of Cyber diplomacy.

These theme would help settle the complex questions of applicability of International Law to Cyberspace, norms of responsible behaviour of states.

As nations engage with each other at various bilateral and multilateral forums across the globe, it is clear that Cyber issues is more than a discussion on Cyber security, Cyber crime, Internet governance and technical matters related to the functionality of Internet.

Above all, discussions on Cyber issues are about Cyber diplomacy; the art and the skill of political alignments and the role of the states in promoting transnational cooperation and contributing to international peace and stability. It is imperative that the states engage with each other diplomatically in increasing instances of cyber attacks to diffuse tensions arising in the wake of challenges of attribution.

The issues of sovereignty among the states, data access, data jurisdiction, the growing threat of militarisation of cyberspace, the need for confidence building, capacity building to bridge the digital divide, cyber espionage, cyber weapons and applicability of international law in cyberspace are issues, that require concerted diplomatic attention.

We want to ensure that Digital space is a safe space. Our government has been committed to developing capacity building in cyber security and cyber security research and development. While we recognize the prime role of governments in cyber security matters relating to national security, we also believe that the cyber space should not become the monopoly of a few.

Our Government has taken steps to promote international security and stability in cyberspace, through a framework that recognizes the applicability of international law, in particular the UN Charter.

We are committed to a multi-stakeholder approach of Internet governance that is transparent and accountable to its stakeholders, including governments, academia, civil society and industry.

In this regard, I particularly wish to appreciate the very productive, lively and intense debate that were witnessed in the sessions on cyber-diplomacy. I am very happy to know that many authorities in their respective fields were able to join these sessions and contribute richly to the global conversation.

I hope that these debates will gather further momentum in the times to come and that GCCS 2017 will be remembered for its rich debates, its wide and enthusiastic participation and the launch of India’s initiative of the Digital Knowledge Sharing Platform (DKSP).

In fact, the Digital Knowledge Sharing Platform seeks to be more than a capacity building platform; complementing the Global Forum on Cyber Expertise, an outstanding initiative by our last hosts, the Government of Netherlands and of which India is a co-Chair.

DKSP seeks to be an online platform to exchange information on best practices and to showcase successful projects around the world which have advanced the cause of successful online delivery of service to citizens, used Internet as a tool of social and economic development and used innovative ways to use ICTs to advance the cause of global peace, security and prosperity.

In fact, we hope that DKSP will contribute to our efforts to bring about digital inclusion, a subject India is very passionate about.

Before I end, I would like to convey my heartfelt appreciation to all the participants who, by their very presence, have demonstrated their commitment to the cause of global peace, security and prosperity. Our gratitude is to the members of the Sextet countries who have been our constant companions for the past one year in this journey as we took on the challenge of organising a mammoth Conference such as the GCCS.

Their ready availability and advice and their willingness to offer their expertise based on their past experience to host this Conference is deeply appreciated and we assure you that as India joins this prestigious Group, we will continue to contribute significantly to the process.

I cannot end without congratulating my colleague Shri Ravi Shankar Prasad, Minister of Electronics & IT and Law & Justice for successfully organising the largest such gathering which has helped chart our future course for ‘cyber for growth’ and ‘cyber for all’.

Thank you.

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