There was a crucial need for international cooperation in this area, said MEA's Secretary East at an ASEAN-India meet

Some states were leveraging their expertise in cyberspace to achieve their political and security-related objectives and indulge in contemporary forms of cross-border terrorism, a senior official of the Ministry of External Affairs said on Wednesday, in a veiled reference to Pakistan.

"At the same time, non state actors and terrorists around the world are using cyber space to broaden their appeal, spread virulent propaganda, incite hatred and violence, recruit youth and raise funds," said MEA's Secretary (East) Riva Ganguly Das.

She was speaking at the 3rd Edition of the ASEAN-India 1.5 Track Dialogue on Cyber Issues organised by ORF in association with the MEA.

Since cyber crime often had a transnational dimension, she pointed out, there was a crucial need for international cooperation to exchange experiences and share best practices for protection of information infrastructures.

"India lays huge emphasis on bilateral and international cooperation on cyber security. The need for cooperation between India and ASEAN member countries in this field is, therefore, self-evident. ASEAN, as we know, has been pro-active in the region's efforts to tackle cyber security challenges and has undertaken various cyber confidence building measures," she noted.

According to her, this emphasis of ASEAN on Cyber Security and Cyber connectivity in accordance with international laws resonated deeply with India’s approach towards Cyber space.

"India has also been working domestically to address the cyber security challenges through platforms capable of supporting and sustaining the efforts in securing the cyber space as well as through the adoption of comprehensive policies such as the New National Cyber Security Policy, which would provide an overview of what it takes to effectively protect information, information systems & networks," she explained.

She referred to widespread concerns that with the advent of new technologies like 5G, vulnerabilities and harmful hidden functions weee being introduced, including through backdoor channels, into ICT networks and products.

"In the Cyber-age, though the meaning of peace has remained constant, the nature of threat and the tools to address them have transformed radically," she pointed out.

Multiplicity of actors in the cyber space as well as the growing dependency on critical infrastructure such as ports, airports, electricity grids, e-governance systems, and businesses, on the cyber platform imposes the responsibility to address concerns related to protection of the critical infrastructure from cyber security perspective.

According to her, most activities in this cyber-age - political, social, economic, humanitarian and developmental – were now conducted in or connected to cyberspace.

"This has not only expedited the pace of growth but also brought forth a new set of challenges for which no preset solutions exist," she pointed out.

Referring to Covid-19, Riva Ganguly Das said the restrictions and disruptions posed by the ongoing pandemic had been "mitigated to some extent by the advancements in digital technology that have enabled us to exchange views, continue discussions and cooperate effectively".

She added that in recent times, the increasing use of cyber and information- communication technologies had supported greater economic development, improved service delivery to citizens, generated greater social awareness and placed information and knowledge in the hands of individuals.

Equitable access to the Cyberspace and its benefits was another important area that India-ASEAN engagement on Cyber issues needs to focus on, she said.

"We have witnessed the critical role played by Digital technologies during the Covid-19 waves, in keeping the supply chains open for an accelerated and sustainable economic recovery in the region and therefore, it becomes all the more important that the digital inequalities are addressed," the MEA Secretary added.

"India is committed to an open, secure, free, accessible and stable cyberspace environment, which will become an engine for innovation, economic growth, sustainable development, ensure free flow of information and respect cultural and linguistic diversity," she pointed out.

With transformative technology initiatives in recent years such as IndiaStack, Aadhar and UPI, India had successfully leveraged the tremendous potential of cyber technologies in implementing the SDG agenda and improving governance.

As part of the COVID vaccination drive, one of the largest such drives in the world, India had developed Co-WIN – a scalable, inclusive and open technological platform.

The Co-WIN platform can be customized and scaled up for health interventions across the globe, the MEA Secretary said.

"We are working on sharing this platform with partner countries in the interest of health cooperation and their preparedness to meet challenges to health of countries across the world," she said.