India questions US dominance over critical internet resources

Written by PTI | New Delhi | Updated: Oct 18 2013, 00:32am hrs
InternetIndia is committed to protecting, preserving and safeguarding freedom of expression and Internet freedom. Reuters
India today expressed reservations over control of critical internet resources like allocation of domain names by a US contracted entity, saying this cannot really be reflective of the international character or community of internet users.

Deputy National Security Advisor Nehchal Sandhu said internet has become a global phenomena and therefore its management must reflect this universality and diversity.

Sandhu said under the existing institutional architecture for internet governance, the International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) performs two functions the Internet Assigned Names Authority (IANA) whereby it controls entries to the authoritative Root Zone File of the Internet and secondly the management of the Domain Name System (DNS) including allocation of Top Level Domain (TLD) names.

He said the technical standards are set by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and the central elements of the internet's logical infrastructure like the Critical Internet Resource," is managed by a private entity under contractual arrangements with the US Government".

"This cannot really be said to be truly representative or reflective of the international character or community of internet users," he said at a seminar on "Internet to Equinet Empowering a Billion Online" organised by FICCI.

Sandhu said as an open, pluralistic and democratic society, India recognises and values the bottom-up nature of the internet and seeks to involve all stakeholders in its global governance.

"India is committed to protecting, preserving and safeguarding freedom of expression and Internet freedom and to strengthening them. Towards this end, India considers that the current system needs to be revitalised to make the global internet governance regime truly 'multilateral, transparent and democratic'," he said.

The Deputy NSA said India would work with those who wish to build and strengthen the global internet governance regime into a multilateral, transparent and democratic mechanism.

He said the equal opportunity and assured access requires equitable distribution of resources and representative management of the internet not only in the national sphere but also at the global level.

Sandhu, a former chief of Intelligence Bureau, said there was an urgent need for formulating globally co-ordinated, inclusive and coherent Internet policies.

"In the absence of an integrated and holistic global policy, States are adopting diverse and often contradictory national policies on new and emerging issues such as net neutrality, social networking sites, search engines, role of internet intermediaries and cyber-terrorism," he said.

The Deputy NSA said if fragmentation of the internet through disparate national level policies is to be avoided and the inherently global character of the internet is to be preserved, urgent action is needed to create an opportunity wherein these issues can be discussed in an open, transparent, democratic and participatory manner.

He said in the field of cyber security, India follows a mixed approach and exhaustive consultations take place with stakeholders, and the results thereof are factored into possible approaches that government might take.

"For example, the Government of India, in consultation with all stakeholders, has initiated a number of steps to enhance cyber security in the country.

"Every such step of Government to enhance cyber security is however conditioned by our commitment to drawing a balance between the immutable liberal democratic principles enshrined in our Constitution and the imperatives of ensuring safety and security of our citizens which is the primary duty of any Government," he said.

Sandhu said government has adopted an integrated approach with a series of policy, legal, technical and administrative steps for addressing cyber security concerns, including the recently approved a National Cyber Security Policy and a framework for ensuring cyber security.

"This framework envisages a multi-layered approach for ensuring defence in depth and a clear delineation of functional responsibilities amongst stakeholders while stressing on coordination and sharing real-time information.

"It also seeks to strengthen our assurance and certification capacity to address supply-chain vulnerabilities, hardening of networks and promotion of research and development in cyber security with emphasis on indigenisation and capacity-building," he said.

The Deputy NSA said government has actively involved the industry associations in its efforts to ensure the security of the cyber space through the mechanism of a Joint Working Group.

"It is currently looking at setting up of Information Sharing and Analysis Centres, testing and certification labs in the private sector and Centres of Excellence in various areas related to capacity building in cyber security. We look forward to greater participation of the private sector in these areas," he said.

Sandhu said it was beyond doubt that internet is dynamic and fast-evolving and consequently, the range and criticality of unaddressed global Internet policy issues is growing with each passing day.

"There is an urgent need for formulating globally co-ordinated, inclusive and coherent Internet policies. In the absence of an integrated and holistic global policy, States are adopting diverse and often contradictory national policies on new and emerging issues such as net neutrality, social networking sites, search engines, role of internet intermediaries and cyber-terrorism," he said.

The security expert said if the fragmentation of the internet through disparate national level policies is to be avoided and the inherently global character of the internet is to be preserved, urgent action is needed to create an opportunity wherein these issues can be discussed in an open, transparent, democratic and participatory manner.

He said the Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG) set up in 2003 by the UN Secretary-General had identified the absence of a global forum for participation by Governments, especially from the developing countries, in addressing cross-cutting issues related to global internet policy development as a key lacunae in the present system of Internet Governance.

"It recommended establishment of a "multilateral, transparent and democratic" organisational mechanism that functions with the full involvement of Governments, private sector, civil society and international organisations within their respective roles, 'without according a pre-eminent role to any single Government'," he said.