You are here: Home / Internet Governance / Blog / The Geopolitics of Cyberspace: A Compendium of CIS Research

The Geopolitics of Cyberspace: A Compendium of CIS Research

Posted by Arindrajit Basu at Dec 31, 2020 12:00 AM |
Cyberspace is undoubtedly shaping and disrupting commerce, defence and human relationships all over the world. Opportunities such as improved access to knowledge, connectivity, and innovative business models have been equally met with nefarious risks including cyber-attacks, disinformation campaigns, government driven digital repression, and rabid profit-making by ‘Big Tech.’ Governments have scrambled to create and update global rules that can regulate the fair and equitable uses of technology while preserving their own strategic interests.

With a rapidly digitizing economy and clear interests in shaping global rules that favour its strategic interests, India stands at a crucial juncture on various facets of this debate. How India governs and harnesses technology, coupled with how India translates these values and negotiates its interests globally, will surely have an impact on how similarly placed emerging economies devise their own strategies. The challenge here is to ensure that domestic technology governance as well as global engagements genuinely uphold and further India’s democratic fibre and constitutional vision.

Since 2018, researchers at the Centre for Internet and Society have produced a body of research including academic writing, at the intersection of geopolitics and technology covering global governance regimes on trade and cybersecurity, including their attendant international law concerns, the digital factor in bilateral relationships (with a focus on the Indo-US and Sino-Indian relationships). We have paid close focus to the role of emerging technologies in this debate, including AI and 5G as well as how private actors in the technology domain, operating across national jurisdictions, are challenging and upending traditionally accepted norms of international law, global governance, and geopolitics.

The global fissures in this space matter fundamentally for individuals who increasingly use digital spaces to carry out day to day activities: from being unwitting victims of state surveillance to harnessing social media for causes of empowerment to falling prey to state-sponsored cyber attacks, the rules of cyber governance, and its underlying politics. Yet, the rules are set by a limited set of public officials and technology lawyers within restricted corridors of power. Better global governance needs more to be participatory and accessible. CIS’s research and writing has been cognizant of this, and attempted to merge questions of global governance with constitutional and technical questions that put individuals and communities centre-stage.

Research and writing produced by CIS researchers and external collaborators from 2018 onward is detailed in the appended compendium.


Global cybersecurity governance and cyber norms

Two decades since a treaty governing state behaviour in cyberspace was mooted by Russia, global governance processes have meandered along. The security debate has often been polarised along “Cold War” lines but the recent amplification of cyberspace governance as developmental, social and economic has seen several new vectors added to this debate. This past year two parallel processes at the United Nations General Assembly’s First Committee on Disarmament and International Security-United Nations Group of Governmental Experts (UN-GGE) and the United Nations Open Ended Working Group managed to produce consensus reports but several questions on international law, norms and geopolitical co-operation remain. India has been a participant at these crucial governance debates. Both the substance of the contribution, along with its implications remain a key focus area for our research.

Edited Volumes

  • Karthik Nachiappan and Arindrajit Basu India and Digital World-Making, Seminar 731, 1 July 2020 (featuring contributions from Manoj Kewalramani, Gunjan Chawla, Torsha Sarkar, Trisha Ray, Sameer Patil, Arun Vishwanathan, Vidushi Marda, Divij Joshi, Asoke Mukerji, Pallavi Raghavan, Karishma Mehrotra, Malavika Raghavan, Constantino Xavier, Rajen Harshe' and Suman Bery)

Long-Form Articles

  1. Arindrajit Basu and Elonnai Hickok, Cyberspace and External Affairs: A Memorandum for India (Memorandum, Centre for Internet and Society, 30 Nov 2018)
  2. The Potential for the Normative Regulation of Cyberspace (White Paper, Centre for Internet and Society, 30 July 2018)
  3. Arindrajit Basu and Elonnai Hickok Conceptualizing an International Security Architecture for cyberspace (Briefings of the Global Commission on the Stability of Cyberspace, Bratislava, Slovakia, May 2018)
  4. Sunil Abraham, Mukta Batra, Geetha Hariharan, Swaraj Barooah, and Akriti Bopanna, India's contribution to internet governance debates (NLUD Student Law Journal, 2018)

Blog Posts and Op-eds

Policy Submissions

  1. Arindrajit Basu, CIS Submission to OEWG (Centre for Internet and Society, Policy Submission, 2020)
  2. Aayush Rathi, Ambika Tandon, Elonnai Hickok, and Arindrajit Basu. “CIS Submission to UN High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation.” Policy submission. Centre for Internet and Society, January 2019.
  3. Arindrajit Basu,Gurshabad Grover, and Elonnai Hickok. “Response to GCSC on Request for Consultation: Norm Package Singapore.” Centre for Internet and Society, January 17, 2019.
  4. Arindrajit Basu and Elonnai Hickok. Submission of Comments to the GCSC Definition of ‘Stability of Cyberspace (Centre for Internet and Society, September 6, 2019)

    Digital Trade and India's Political Economy

    The modern trading regime and its institutions were born largely into a world bereft of the internet and its implications for cross-border flow and commerce. Therefore, regulatory ambitions at the WTO have played catch up with the technological innovation that has underpinned the modern global digital economy. Driven by tech giants, the “developed” world has sought to restrict the policy space available to the emerging world to impose mandates regarding data localisation, source code disclosure, and taxation - among other initiatives central to development. At the same time emerging economies have pushed back, making for a tussle that continues to this day. Our research has focussed both on issues of domestic political economy and data governance,and the implications these domestic issues have on how India and other emerging economies negotiate at the world stage.

    Long-Form articles and essays

    1. Arindrajit Basu, Elonnai Hickok and Aditya Chawla, The Localisation Gambit: Unpacking policy moves for the sovereign control of data in India (Centre for Internet and Society, March 19, 2019)
    2. Arindrajit Basu,Sovereignty in a datafied world: A framework for Indian diplomacy in Navdeep Suri and Malancha Chakrabarty (eds) A 2030 Vision for India’s Economic Diplomacy (Observer Research Foundation 2021)
    3. Amber Sinha, Elonnai Hickok, Udbhav Tiwari and Arindrajit Basu, Cross Border Data-Sharing and India (Centre for Internet and Society, 2018)

    Blog posts and op-eds

    International Law and Human Rights

    International law and human rights are ostensibly technology neutral, and should lay the edifice for digital governance and cybersecurity today. Our research on international human rights has focussed on global surveillance practices and other internet restrictions employed by a variety of nations, and the implications this has for citizens and communities in India and similarly placed emerging economies. CIS researchers have also contributed to, and commented on World Intellectual Property Organization negotiations at the intersection of international Intellectual Property (IP) rules and the human rights.

    Long-form article

    1. Arindrajit Basu, Extra Territorial Surveillance and the incapacitation of international human rights law, 12 NUJS LAW REVIEW 2 (2019)
    2. Gurshabad Grover and Arindrajit Basu, ”Internet Blockage”(Scenario contribution to NATO CCDCOE Cyber Law Toolkit,2021)
    3. Arindrajit Basu and Elonnai Hickok, Conceptualizing an international framework for active private cyber defence (Indian Journal of Law and Technology, 2020)
    4. Arindrajit Basu,Challenging the dogmatic inevitability of extraterritorial state surveillance in Trisha Ray and Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan (eds) Digital Debates: CyFy Journal 2021 (New Delhi:ORF and Global Policy Journal,2021)

    Blog Posts and op-eds

    Bilateral Relationships

    Technology has become a crucial factor in shaping bilateral and plurilateral co-operation and competition. Given the geopolitical fissures and opportunities since 2020, our research has focussed on how technology governance and cybersecurity could impact the larger ecosystem of Indo-China and India-US relations. Going forward, we hope to undertake more research on technology in plurilateral arrangements, including the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue.

    Emerging Technologies

    Governance needs to keep pace with the technological challenges posed by emerging technologies, including 5G and AI. To do so an interdisciplinary approach that evaluates these scientific advances in line with the regimes that govern them is of utmost importance. While each country will need to regulate technology through the lens of their strategic interests and public policy priorities, it is clear that geopolitical tensions on standard-setting and governance models compels a more global outlook.

    Long-Form reports

    1. Anoushka Soni and Elizabeth Dominic, Legal and Policy implications of Autonomous weapons systems (Centre for Internet and Society, 2020)
    2. Aayush Rathi, Gurshabad Grover, and Sunil Abraham, Regulating the internet: The Government of India & Standards Development at the IETF (Centre for Internet and Society, 2018)

    Blog posts and op-eds

    (This compendium was drafted by Arindrajit Basu with contributions from Anubha Sinha. Aman Nair, Gurshabad Grover, and  Pranav MB reviewed the draft and provided vital insight towards its conceptualization and compilation. Dishani Mondal and Anand Badola provided important inputs at earlier stages of the process towards creating this compendium)