The mass surveillance by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) is an “area of concern for all democracies” and India is working with Brazil and other countries in efforts to find platforms for global governance of the cyber space, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said in the Brazilian capital on Wednesday.

“Many countries would want to work together to find an appropriate system and architecture to protect privacy, freedom of expression, sovereignty and security of cyber space,” Mr. Khurshid said in response to a specific question on NSA spying, at a joint press briefing with his Brazilian counterpart Luiz Machado in Brasilia.

The two Ministers were addressing the media at the end of the sixth meeting of the India-Brazil Joint Commission. Though Khurshid didn’t mention the U.S. or the NSA in his reply, his response was a big change from his first reaction to American spying in June, when he had said it was not “actually snooping”. On Tuesday, Mr. Khurshid disclosed that India had been discussing the issue with Brazil. “We are collaborating and cooperating at the U.N. level to find some architecture, and I have requested the Minister to share with us their thoughts more specifically and we have been working on such thoughts in our own country and once we have put them on paper, I would request the Minister for Information Technology to forward them to his counterpart in Brazil,” Mr. Khurshid added.

On NSA snooping, the Brazilian Minister was more forthcoming as he mentioned the U.S. and White House in his reply. “The White House has already said that they are revising their system of surveillance in the case of friendly countries. Now, we are waiting for the American response on this revision. At the moment, the ball is in their court,” Mr. Machado said.

Earlier, in the two-day meeting of the Joint Commission which was co-chaired by Mr. Khurshid and Mr. Machado, both countries expressed their concern over the unauthorised interception of communications and data from citizens, businesses and members of governments, compromising national sovereignty and individual rights. According to the minutes of the meeting released by the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministers “reiterated that it is important to contribute to and participate in a peaceful, secure, and open cyberspace and emphasised that security in the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) through universally accepted norms, standards and practices is of paramount importance.”

Bilateral relations, trade

Though the focus of the conference, being held on the 10th anniversary of the first meeting of the Joint Commission, was on issues like bilateral relations, trade, IBSA, BRICS, G-4 and G-20, the two sides also discussed several regional and global issues. On the issue of Syria, the Ministers “called upon all parties to commit immediately to a complete ceasefire, to halt violence and to end all violations of human rights and humanitarian law” and reiterated that “there is no military solution to the conflict and that it is time for diplomacy.”

On his first visit to Brazil, Mr. Khurshid and Mr. Machado emphasized on the need for “reform of the institutions of global governance with a view to making them more legitimate, representative and inclusive”.

They also spent a good deal of time discussing the vast potential for further growth of the bilateral trade and how to reach the goal of $15 billion by 2015. As a large part of India-Brazil trade is focussed on mining and oil, the Ministers called for “increased investments in each other's energy sectors.”

India’s ONGC Videsh Limited (OVL) already has made huge investments in oil blocks in Brazil and it’s Level A bidder in the forthcoming Libra Field Pre-salt Tender, scheduled for October 21. “Both our private sector and public sector oil companies have shown interest in investing and partnering with Brazilian companies, including the Brazilian State companies in the field of energy. OVL has made a bid and we hope it will become a reality. We remain committed to working with Brazil and both in India as well as here and perhaps in third countries as well,” Mr. Khurshid said, when asked about India’s interests in Brazil’s huge oil deposits.

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