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Nuanced and progressive: An assessment of India’s stance at WCIT

Asia is said to the last redoubt of belief in the Westphalian state. The Internet is fundamentally incompatible with the notion of a national state (legislature, executive and judiciary) having untrammeled authority over all that went on within its boundaries. It is therefore understandable that government officials have trouble dealing with Internet policy. But as stated by this observer of the Indian process, it appears that Indian officials have overcome these handicaps, thanks to vibrant stakeholder engagement:

But a subsequent close engagement on their part with the government seems to have borne fruit. The positions that were put forward in Dubai by the Government of India in the end were far more nuanced, effectively taking into account many of the concerns that civil society and industry had put on the table. Sticking points definitely remain. For example, though the government agreed in most cases to restrict the application of provisions regarding security to the physical layer of the Internet, it nevertheless continued to espouse inclusion of provisions regarding spam in the treaty—a move that effectively expands the scope of the treaty to the content layer. Yet many positives can be counted as well. For example, the government also clarified that it sought the inclusion of ICTs in ITRs only to the extent that they relate to the physical layer of the network; other aspects of ICTs, including content, would remain out of the treaty’s purview. Similarly, reflecting another important recommendation, India expressed its support for inclusion in the treaty of language which calls on States to uphold their human rights obligations while implementing ITRs. Both positions are important gains from the perspective of users’ rights and are reflected in the final version of ITRs.

Nuance also marks India’s position on the treaty as a whole. While the country put on record its satisfaction with the text of the treaty and four of the resolutions passed in Dubai, it also expressed its reservations concerning a fifth resolution, which addresses Internet governance in particular. It noted it would hold further consultations with stakeholders within the country to understand the potential impact of this resolution on the Internet before committing to sign the treaty.

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