‘Proposal for government control ill-considered and dangerous'

Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar has written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, asking him to withdraw India's recent position at the U.N. proposing governmental control over Internet. A 50-member government/ bureaucratic body through the formation of a United Nations Committee on Internet Related Policies (CIRP) was mooted. This proposal sought to replace the current multi-stakeholder governance model.

Stating that the move was “ill-considered and dangerous as it hurt the cause of freedom of expression, interest of citizens and India's image as a vibrant democracy,” Mr. Chandrasekhar said in the letter: “India must move immediately and reverse its stance at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) meeting in Geneva and ultimately, when further dialogue takes place under the IGF in Baku in November 2012 as well as at the WSIS meeting scheduled in Dubai at the end of 2012. Any fresh position must be subject to wide-ranging public consultation.”

Notably, India's proposal, originally made in October 2011 at the 66th session of the U.N. General Assembly, is expected to come up for discussion on Friday at the WSIS in Geneva.

Mr. Chandrasekhar said the proposal permanently impacted all of India's citizens and, more specifically, the 90-crore mobile subscribers and the fast-growing Internet users across the nation. “The issue has received little attention in India, but has the potential of causing immense harm to the existing and next generation of Internet users in general, but specifically to the free growth of the Internet in India.”

“Currently, Internet governance is managed through a multi-stakeholder process wherein engineers, civil society, the private sector, the NGOs, the technical and academic community, along with the government, have managed the Internet's growth – perhaps the most life-altering phenomenon of our times. A top-down, centralised, international governmental overlay – as proposed by India – is fundamentally against the architecture of the Internet – which is a global network of networks without borders,” he noted.

Mr. Chandrasekhar also said India's position was inherently flawed as it “can lead to curbs on free speech and freedom of expression.”

“It hurts India's reputation as a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural democratic society with an open economy and an abiding culture of pluralism. There is a mounting effort by countries such as Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Cuba and Rwanda to transform the U.N. into a global Internet regulator. This threatens to undo decades of restrained government intervention that helped the Internet evolve into the open, global medium that we all depend upon.”

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