Says Asia is "the cyber security battleground" as it has become the hub of cyber conflict

The U.S. Foreign Affairs Sub-committee on Asia and the Pacific has termed the Asian region “the cyber security battleground,” beset by some of the world’s most aggressive cyber state and non-actors, and has pitched for strong partnership between the two countries on cyber security issues.

This call for India-U.S. partnership comes close on the heels of India unveiling a cyber security policy that aims at partnership between the National Security Advisor and the private sector.

“I think it’s fitting that today’s hearing calls the region the cyber security battleground because as Asia has become the most economically dynamic region in the world, it has also become the hub of cyber conflict. Alternatively, while Asia is not an actual battleground, as we know one to be or in the throes of a drawn out war, this term symbolises that the region is faced with many serious threats and actors that are unstable, uncertain and volatile,” the committee’s chairman, Rep. Steve Chabot, said in his opening remarks during a recent Congressional hearing.

Mr. Chabot said one could not forget the cyber threats emerging from Pakistan that challenged the national security of the U.S.’ and India. “Mutual distrust dominates the relationship, which severely hampers opportunities for bilateral cooperation. As home to numerous terrorist groups, the cyber risks materialising from Pakistan are exceedingly multifarious,” he remarked.

Just the other day, the director of the National Security Agency said: “Terrorists use our communications devices. They use our networks … they use Skype, they use Yahoo, they use Google … and they are trying to kill our people. Cyber terrorism is real.”

Efforts are on to examine how to advance this strategy in such a critical region of the world as Asia. Almost every day, U.S. businesses fall victims of cyber exploitation and theft by countries such as China. Theft of intellectual property not only takes away American jobs and hurts innovation and competitiveness, it costs U.S. businesses somewhere between $2 billion and $400 billion a year.

Experts who deposed before the Committee said both India and U.S. needed to forge a strong partnership on cyber security issues as it faced cyber threat from Pakistan, China and non-state actors. “The Indians’ primary concern in cyber security is with Pakistan and Pakistani non-state actors or state-sponsored actors launching some kind of attack against India. Their second concern is Chinese espionage,” James Lewis — Director and Senior Fellow, Centre for Strategic International Studies’ Technology and Public Policy Programme — said during the Congressional hearing.

“One of the things that works in our favour is they aren’t particularly friends with the Chinese all the time, and they worry a lot about it. So we have an opportunity to work with India. The thing we have to avoid in doing that is giving the impression that we’re trying to contain China. The Chinese worry about this a lot. We do need to build up partnership with India, but we have to do it in a way that does not appear to be deliberately trying to contain China,” Mr. Lewis said in response to a question.

Karl Rauscher, Chief Technology Officer and a Distinguished Fellow at the East West Institute, said New Delhi’s decision to create the National Cyber Coordination Centre was a step in the right direction. Noting that India was recognised as the leading producer of international spam, he said: “Their coordination with external experts to root out these sources of spam is really critical not only for India but for the rest of the world, particularly English-speaking countries.”

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