To insist on Internet data storage within the country

In view of its growing cyber security concerns, India has decided to challenge the U.S. government’s control over the Internet and ensure that the trio of the U.S., Russia and China does not ignore India’s concerns while developing an international regime for Internet governance.

India will also push for storing all Internet data within the country, besides ensuring control and management of servers.

“The control of Internet was in the hands of the U.S. government and the key levers relating to its management was dominated by its security agencies…Mere location of root servers in India would not serve any purpose unless we were also allowed a role in their control and management. We should insist that data of all domain names originating from India…should be stored in India. Similarly, all traffic originating/landing in India should be stored in India,” says an internal note prepared after the meeting of Sub-Committee on International Cooperation on Cyber Security under the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS).

Notably, the key function of domain name system (DNS) management today is in the hands of the U.S. National Telecommunication and Information Administration and the Department of Commerce. Though after persistently putting pressure on companies, India managed to get root servers installed in the country, it wants a say in management of these servers. India is also seeking a key role in policy making on Internet governance at the international level, said a senior government official engaged in India’s cyber security preparedness.

“It was important that management and control of the DNS should be supervised by a ‘Board’ consisting of technical experts nominated by governments and India should be represented on this Board. We should seek a larger determinate role for the GAC [Government Advisory Committee] in ICANN [Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Number] a U.S.-based non-profit organisation that coordinates global Internet systems, which we should be effectively represented,” the note adds.

Significantly, under the ‘Affirmation of Commitments’ between the ICANN and the U.S. Department of Commerce, the ICANN committed that it would not shift outside of the U.S. without the concurrence of the U.S. government and the process of Internet management would be led by private sector. At the meeting, held last month and headed by Deputy National Security Advisor and NSCS Secretary Nehchal Sandhu, it was decided that the Ministry of External Affairs along with the Department of Electronic and Information Technology (DEITy) and the NSCS, will develop a position paper, highlighting India’s concerns regarding representation and management control in the Internet governance domain.

India is also concerned about the proximity of the U.S., Russia and China while deciding on issue of Internet governance. “There was a possibility that the U.S., Russia and China may work out an arrangement that met their concerns and this arrangement was thereafter forced upon other countries. We need to guard against this possibility and ensure that India’s concerns were also accommodated in whatever international regime for Internet governance that ultimately emerged,” the note adds. Notably, today India has third largest Internet users in the world at over 15 crore, only after China (56 crore) and the U.S. (25 crore).

Similarly, India has also decided to favour a pre-dominantly multilateral approach on issues related to Internet governance rather than multi-stakeholder approach which is mainly being advocated by the West. “India feels that the very term multi-stakeholder was something of a ‘misnomer’. A small unrepresentative group of certain individuals, supported by vested interests, appear to have arrogated themselves the right to present certain views in discussions relating to Internet governance. It was not clear as to who they represent and whether who they claimed to represent had in fact nominated them. These persons undermine the positions of the government and were really spokespersons of certain Western interests,” the note says.

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