This year’s rapid proliferation of the coronavirus exposed the strengths and deficits in various public governance systems, including in states’ cyber resilience. Criminals and state-sponsored groups have exploited the pandemic as an opportunity to target computers and networks of home offices and hospitals for financial gain and espionage purposes, and disinformation campaigns on COVID-19 have been employed to deter culpability for the pandemic’s outbreak and undermine public trust in democratic institutions. In the post-pandemic order, the rollout of 5G and the emergent cross-sectoral application of AI will likely further increase systemic cyber vulnerabilities and accentuate the need to strengthen the global framework for responsible state behaviour and existing mechanisms for global cooperation on cyber crime.
The European Union (EU) and India have made significant legislative, policy and strategic adjustments in their respective jurisdictions and intensified their cyber diplomacy efforts to address these challenges, including through bilateral cooperation. Already in 2000, Brussels and New Delhi established a Joint ICT Working Group that helped kick-starting joint ICT research and innovation initiatives and exchanging best practices on data and internet governance between governments and industry communities. In 2011, both sides met for the first cyber policy consultation, which was upgraded to a strategic Cyber Dialogue within the framework of their bilateral Security Dialogue in 2015. This expanded dialogue addressed issues ranging from enhancing stability in cyberspace through norms of responsible state behaviour, confidence-building measures (CBMs) and capacity building and efforts to tackle cyber crime to scaling up cyber security skills training in India and democratically governing data. The Cyber Dialogue has also facilitated operational cooperation between EU-CERT and CERT-IN. In addition, assessments on the use of ICT by terrorist groups were exchanged in the EU-India Counter-terrorism Dialogue. Finally, India and around half of the EU’s member states also entered bilateral arrangements to enhance cyber security-related cooperation.
In 2020, the conversation can build on this existing institutional setting to achieve tangible, targeted results for greater resilience and trust in cyberspace. To this end, the EU Cyber Direct project and the Observer Research Foundation join forces to organize a second edition of the Track 1.5 EU-India Cyber Consultations.
The consultations seek to create a trusted, informal space to:
(1) enhance mutual understanding of the evolving cyber diplomacy postures in the EU and India with regard to critical information infrastructure protection, CBMs, disinformation and cyber crime
(2) identify convergences in the diplomatic positions on future negotiations on an open, free, and secure cyberspace
(3) build bridges between multiple stakeholders in European and Indian cyber diplomacy by including non-governmental voices in the governmental norms-building processes.
The consultations offer an opportunity to exchange views on how to best create a sustainable and inclusive dialogue on how to best reinforce resilience, prevent conflict escalation, tackle disinformation and combat crime in cyberspace at the bilateral, regional and global levels.