One of the ways to prevent technologies and weapons from falling into wrong hands is to restrict and regulate their export out of the jurisdictions possessing the same. By putting export restrictions, weapons and technologies can be exported according to set norms and under scrutiny. The Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies (Wassenaar Arrangement) is one such arrangement between many western countries.
The Wassenaar Arrangement has been established in order to contribute to regional and international security and stability. Participating States seek, through their national policies, to ensure that transfers of restricted items do not contribute to the development or enhancement of military capabilities. The decision to transfer or deny transfer of any item is the sole responsibility of each Participating State. All measures with respect to the Arrangement are taken in accordance with national legislation and policies and are implemented on the basis of national discretion.
The Wassenaar Arrangement is focusing primarily on the transparency of national export control regimes and not granting veto power to individual members over organisational decisions. It is not a treaty, and therefore is not legally binding. However, through its collective decision making process, it can prohibit the transfer of a particular technology to non member nation(s). India is one such non member Nation and she has keen interests in import of technologies like cyber security software and hardware.
UK, France have now proposed amendments to Wassenaar Arrangement to include cyber security technologies. Naturally, India has expressed her concerns regarding this attempt as India is primarily dependent upon foreign nations for her cyber security related requirements. Changes were made to the Wassenaar Arrangement in December 2013 at a plenary meeting held at Vienna following the Snowden revelations.
"These changes could have severe impact on India’s cyber security programme — both software and hardware — as these would come under export control regime, the entire inventory of high-end cyber technology is with the Western countries like the US and they may deny products to Indian organisation,” said a senior Government official.
A high level meeting of the National Security Council was recently held to discuss the next course of action. The problem is that the products included in the control list have not yet been made public and the next round of plenary meeting to be held at the end of this month is expected to see the formal adoption of this agreement. Since India is not part of the agreement, it does not have access to the decisions or means to influence the proceedings. Therefore, Indian may seek membership to the exclusive club.
“The best way to deal with this would be to have our own technologies and invest in R&D but that would take time. We would like to engage with countries like US and UK to take our view on board before listing out products under export control,” said a Government official directly dealing with the issue.
The official also said that as a pre-emptive move India was looking to purchase critical technology before the new arrangement is finalised. An expert committee has been set up to figure out the future course of action, including negotiating with six countries — the US, the UK, Israel, Germany, France and Canada.
CERT-In has claimed that some softwares supplied to India are tweaked which become prone to hacking. India was given a solution of the “Heart Bleed” malware, which impacted security of softwares, by vendors after a year of its discovery. Software companies under the product sale agreement are bound to provide solution of any vulnerability found in their product(s) immediately after detection.
Sources said Ministry of External Affairs was of the view that high technology items are always an issue for the US but India could influence the decision by seeking membership of the Wassenaar Arrangement.