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Inaugural Address by Sh. Rajinder Khanna, Deputy National Security Advisor, Government of India.

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  • Shri. Rajinder Khanna, Dy. National Security Advisor, Government of India
    December 05, 2018


    The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) is the international organisation of seven nations of South Asia and South East Asia, which is working towards a safe and secure regional security environment. BIMSTEC Community is charting a new path forward in new areas such as cyber security by coming together to address emerging security challenges emanating from cyberspace, underpinned by technological innovations and blurring of national boundaries in the cyber domain.

    We are at the cusp of a very exciting time, with tremendous opportunities. The internet is now the backbone of our banks, power grids, business and governments. The inter-connectedness of internet, underpinned by ICT technologies and the ability to move data across borders, provides new avenues for economic development and growth.

    Digital data is being called the new “oil” as it is an increasingly revenue source for many technology companies. Innovation is increasingly based on digital technologies and business models that effectively utilise opportunities offered by cyber domain. Technological advances on the horizon, such as artificial intelligence, IoT and robotics, are expected to change the way we live and work. Countries that are prepared and digitally engaged will be better placed to ride this revolution.

    Yet while this digital revolution has spurred new opportunities, it has also spawned new threats. These cyber threats continue to grow in scale, sophistication and severity from hostile states, groups and individuals who use cyber medium and tools to commit cybercrimes and cyber terrorism, to project power, to intimidate their adversaries, and to influence and manipulate societies and citizens.

    We have moved into an era of increasingly complex cyber threats. Our growing digital dependence means that vulnerabilities can have widespread, unpredictable, and cascading consequences. For instance, in 2017, more than 300,000 computers in 150 countries were hit by the Wannacry ransomware attack, with cases reported in BIMSTEC countries including India, among others. And then of course, there’s the broader cyber threat to national, regional and international security. Hostile state activity in cyberspace is the most alarming expression of that threat. Many states are building cyber capability. This has led to “trust -deficit” among states and thus has potential to disrupt regional and international security environment.

    Cyber security also raises important issues for personal privacy and the data protection. Advancement in technology such as Data Mining, Big Data Analytics, Cloud computing etc. brings unforeseen challenges and one of the major challenges is threat to “privacy” and Data Protection. The Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal (2018) revealed that Cambridge Analytica had harvested the personal data of millions of people’s Facebook profiles without their consent and used it for political purposes. All these have led to demand for data protection regime and data localisation. EU has implemented adopted General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) from 25 May 2018. Similarly, many countries are working towards adopting data protection laws and data localisation. Cyber security is a common concern among states including BIMSTEC countries. BIMSTEC needs to address cybersecurity challenges to reap the full dividends of future digital economy.

    Given the tremendous potential for digitalisation in BIMSTEC, there is great opportunity for BIMSTEC countries to play a leading role in area of cyber security to ensure region’s future growth and development. As such, it is important that BIMSTEC countries work together collectively as a community to ensure a secure and resilient cyberspace in the region. The e-commerce space and the digital economy space are the new areas where cooperation within BIMSTEC can lead to prosperity and growth in the region.

    India has embarked on the digital India programme to bridge the digital divide in the country and access to internet. Today, India has the world’s second largest numbers of internet users after China. Aadhar is world’s largest biometric database of more than a billion Indians. India’s digital economy is growing with emphasis on digital payments/ online financial transaction. The Government has taken a number of steps to ensure a safe and secure Indian cyberspace and strengthen the cyber resilience of the critical information infrastructures (CIIs). Major cyber security initiatives includes the 2013 National Cyber Security Policy, Information Technology Act 2000, setting up of CERT-In and NCIIPC as nodal cyber agencies under IT Act, Draft Personal Data Protection Bill 2018, measures to strengthen privacy and data protection, promotion of cyber security R&D, capacity building and skill development, promotion of public-private partnership in cyber security. But for all that we’ve done, and for all that we’re doing, there’s still much more work ahead. And what bring us all here today is the recognition that we cannot do it alone. We should continue stepping up similar efforts within each of our countries, so that we can collectively create a safer and trusted cyberspace, and combat cyber threats with better capabilities.

    We need to work together within and beyond BIMSTEC to minimize cyber risks by raising the level of regional capacity and cooperation in the area of cybersecurity. This workshop is aimed at initiating regional capability building in all aspects of cyber security and to heighten the awareness of ongoing global cyber norms discussions at international platforms such as the United Nations Group of Governmental Experts (UNGGE).

    India is committed to foster close relationships with our BIMSTEC counterparts to build up regional cyber capacity, and will be deepening our support to this end. Besides scaling up cyber capabilities, we can collectively develop and agree upon basic voluntary cyber norms in BIMSTEC region. This will be useful to amplify BIMSTEC’s voice on international cyber discussions at international forums such as the United Nations, UNGGE.

    India is supportive of having basic rules for responsible state behaviour in cyberspace and believes that BIMSTEC can work together to reach consensus on basic voluntary cyber norms for the region. I would like to put forth a call for greater coordination among BIMSTEC on cyber policy and capacity building so that we can project a unified BIMSTEC voice internationally to protect and advance our regional perspectives.

    We should work towards further strengthening partnerships with similar regional and international organizations such as the United Nations, BRICS, SCO, EU, OSCE, ARF, to identify and respond to trans-boundary threats in a timely, coordinated and coherent manner. A coherent, coordinated global effort is key to a trusted and resilient cyber environment. There is a need for sharing of information among states and working together to effectively respond to trans-boundary cyber threats.

    Cyber technologies are evolving continuously, from the Internet of Things (IoT) to 5G to artificial intelligence to quantum computing, and each advance is accompanied not only by new opportunities, but new challenges. Cyber security is a shared responsibility. We need to work together to strengthen cyber security to take full advantage of this technological domain. Present Cyber Workshop provides us opportunity to deliberate on common cyber security concerns, share experiences and create a roadmap to move forward as a united and cyber-resilient region. I look forward to the meaningful discussions in the workshop, and wish all of you a fruitful time in New Delhi.

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