As a member of the 2015 UNGGE group, India accepts that international law and specifically the UN Charter applies in its entirety in the cyber domain. India has noted
the need to develop common understandings as to how international law should be interpreted, especially on the issues of what constitutes force and/or an armed attack in cyberspace and what the threshold of cyber-attacks should be to invoke Article 51 of the UN Charter.
In statements at the UN General Assembly, India has also specifically called for
further elaboration on peacetime rules of international law, the law concerning the right of self-defence and international humanitarian law.
Apart from these calls for clarification and elaboration, however, India’s stance on specific aspects of international law and their interpretation remains unclear. This seems consistent with India’s recent reorientation of its foreign policy
; since 2019, India’s wider approach has been marked by a shift from traditional non-alignment to issue-based ‘multi-alignment’ that reflects national priorities and interests.
The US believes
that international law is applicable in cyberspace. As part of the ‘like-minded’ coalition, the US recognises a need to acknowledge the full breadth of relevant international law, including international humanitarian law (IHL), human rights law, customary international law on the responsibilities of states for internationally wrongful acts. The general applicability of IHL in cyberspace is not to be misconstrued as a tacit endorsement of aggression in the cyber domain; instead, it only serves to remind states of the responsibility to respect and protect civilians in the event of armed conflict.
In the context of multilateral fora, US diplomats have specifically emphasised
the applicability of the right to self-defence under Art. 51 of the UN Charter, noting that a State may lawfully take cyber-based or non-cyber-based countermeasures in response to internationally wrongful cyber activities attributable to another State, but only subject to the requirements of the doctrine under international law and the principles of necessity and proportionality.
The UK views
international law as “a critical tool for ensuring stability and security in cyberspace”. In accordance with the 2013, 2015 and 2021 UNGGE reports as well the 2021 OEWG report, the UK has affirmed
that international law, including the UN Charter in its entirety, applies in cyberspace; a position paper notably states
that “we do not consider it is for States to pick and choose which international law instruments are applicable”. This includes the prohibition of the use of force (Article 2(4)), the peaceful settlement of disputes (Article 33) and the inherent right of states to act in self-defence in response to an armed attack (Article 51). The law of state responsibility applies to cyber operations in peacetime, including the doctrine of countermeasures in response to internationally wrongful acts. Meanwhile, the country has professed
a strong commitment to the respect of human rights law in cyberspace, co-sponsoring the 2012
UN Human Rights Council resolutions on the protection, promotion and enjoyment of human rights on the Internet. Likewise, the UK believes
in the application of international humanitarian law (IHL) to cyber operations in armed conflict. In response to concerns expressed by other states that this might lead to an undue ‘militarisation’ of cyberspace, the UK has responded
that the application of IHL does not encourage armed conflict but only serves to limit humanitarian consequences in the event of such conflict. In addition, the country has stated
and that there are ways for cyber capabilities to be developed in a manner “consistent with international law” and called on states to be transparent about the existence of their own capabilities. Those statements do not entirely dismiss the idea of cyberspace as a new military domain, with the British position at the OEWG being
that “the use of ICTs in military contexts may be preferable to use of kinetic weapons and can be de-escalatory”. The UK is against the establishment of new, binding international instruments to regulate state behaviour in cyberspace, arguing
that “pursuing […] the development of new treaties is only likely to entrench existing divides in this area and will progress us no further on the question of how International Law applies”.