Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant Security Breach: Despite Modi’s Digital India Thrust, Where Are National Security Doctrine and Cyber Security Infrastructure? |OPINION

The fortifying of India’s digital infrastructure has to be accompanied by diplomatic initiatives that nudge states towards restraint in cyberspace. While New Delhi was an active participant in the 2016-17 Group of Governmental Experts constituted to determine “rules of the road” for state conduct in cyberspace, the GGE itself disbanded without a consensus report.

The 2015 iteration of the GGE’s report had already urged states not to target the critical infrastructure of others, but enforcing this norm has proved a challenge. Starting December 2019, the GGE, reconstituted for a sixth time with a two-year life span, will attempt to identify how international law applies to the actions of states and non-state actors in cyberspace. India is a part of this group, and must use its good offices to secure a strong report that chastises the targeting of critical infrastructure like nuclear plants.

These norms, however, are of little value unless they are elevated into a binding international instrument, like the Convention on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. In particular, a multilateral institution that can effectively attribute cyber attacks of a regional or global nature will be essential to the success of such an instrument.

And finally, India must systematically build and consolidate its offensive cyber capabilities to deter and punish such serious intrusions. It is all very well to call for restraint, but New Delhi should keep the proverbial gunpowder dry. The old adage “if you want peace, prepare for war” applies to cyber warfare as well.

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