During India’s closed-door discussions on cyber security and Internet policies at the recently-concluded Russia-India-China (RIC) convention, Internet experts fear that the government may be trying to leave out discussions with social stakeholders like social activists, businessmen or the academia. It must be borne in mind that telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad in an ICAN meet last year stressed on the role of the government in cyber-security policy measures, despite the need to have an Internet largely unregulated by the government.

Anja Kovacs of the Internet Democracy project feels that India has given away too much, and that India’s multi-stakeholder approach in the context of the role of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is not too clear. Russia and China have traditionally, since the 90s, wanted a bigger role for the ITU, despite a pushback from the West. The ITU has had a positive role in the recent past. Yet, when they mention multilateralism, the scope for developing nations is not too wide. The US may have the scope to include several stakeholders from the business community, civil society and academia, but how much scope does a developing country have,” says Anja, adding that the mention of internationalising, too, is problematic.

The grouping of the three countries could also be to signal an alliance to counter the US’s efforts to ensure the exemption of the UK from the mutual legal assistance treaty (MLAT) system which is headquartered in the United States, says Chinmayi Arun, policy director at the Centre for Communication Governance at NLU Delhi. Under the MLAT process, any request about data that originates in case of a criminal breach from a country is usually routed via US’s department of justice, which takes time while following due processes.

The concerns expressed, understandably, on the growing concerns of cyber terrorism and the efforts to deal with it are needed, but there is no need to exclude other stakeholders in the process,” said Chinmayi. Russia and China have also been pushing for a growing role of the state in policing the government, and are keen to use the UN to facilitate that.”

Nikhil Pahwa of Medianama, who steer-headed the net neutrality movement by engaging several stakeholders, says that the government’s stance is unclear, as it speaks of both multilateralism and multiple stakeholders, as both are contradictory.

Pranesh Prakash of the Centre for Internet and Society says that he is sceptical of the sentiments expressed on internationalisation of internet governance.

For instance, there’s been a two-year process via which the US’s oversight over ICANN and the IANA functions are nominally being removed. But Russia, India, and China have not really pushed for internationalisation, and ICANN and the Internet’s root zone system is going to remain subject to US jurisdiction, including US sanctions. If the ministers truly meant what they say, they should intervene in that process and say that we need to internationalise ICANN in practice and spirit, not just in name,” he said.

Originally published in DNA India.