Editorials/Opinions Analysis For UPSC 08 July 2023
- India Hosts SCO Virtual Summit
- Managing Internet Access and Public Order
India Hosts SCO Virtual Summit
Recently, Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), a multilateral grouping of nations from the Eurasian region, held its summit conference at the home of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Presidents Xi Jinping of China, Vladimir Putin of Russia, and Shehbaz Sharif of Pakistan all took part in the virtual summit.
GS Paper 2 – International Relations – Regional and International Organizations and Summits
During the virtual SCO summit, consider India’s position on important issues like terrorism, territorial integrity, and connectivity initiatives. Consider the consequences for India’s strategic independence of India’s decision to desist from assisting China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). (250 words)
History and Importance of the SCO
- In 2001, Russia, China, the Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan created the SCO.
- Pakistan and India both attained full membership status in 2017 after joining in 2009 at the leadership level.
- The SCO seeks to promote collaboration in a number of fields, such as security, trade, culture, and counterterrorism.
Challenges and strategies for India’s hosting:
- Due to tense relations with China and Pakistan, India decided to host a virtual summit rather than an in-person meeting in New Delhi.
- India’s strained relations made it difficult to host an in-person summit, but it offered a chance to engage with nations outside the Western bloc. At the previous SCO foreign ministers’ meeting, tensions were evident as External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar criticised Pakistan’s Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s association with terrorism.
Strong Proclamations from India Regarding Terrorism and Territorial Integrity
- In response to the issue of cross-border terrorism, Prime Minister Modi called for criticism of nations that use it as a tool of foreign policy.
- Making reference to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), he emphasised the need to preserve sovereignty and territorial integrity during the execution of connectivity projects.
China’s and Pakistan’s Reactions
- Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif emphasised the fight against terrorism, cautioning against using it to score diplomatic points and stressing the importance of protecting minority rights.
- Shehbaz also emphasised the UN Security Council resolutions as a framework for resolving regional disputes. Chinese President Xi Jinping called for dialogue, respect for core interests, and rejection of external attempts to establish a new Cold War
Russian Concerns and Support
- Russian President Vladimir Putin thanked SCO leaders for their support and raised concerns about outside forces aiming to incite conflict with Ukraine.
- Putin was grateful for India’s compassion and assistance in maintaining its constitutional system.
New Delhi Declaration and India’s Positions:
The New Delhi Declaration focused on joint efforts against terrorism and the prevention of religious intolerance, nationalism, and discrimination. It did not support China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which India opposes due to concerns over the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. India also refrained from signing the SCO Economic Development Strategy, which carried Beijing’s influence.
Indian diplomacy and the concept of strategic autonomy
Strategic autonomy and India’s diplomatic stance in the context of the Ukraine conflict and US-China polarisation are demonstrated by the fact that India is hosting the SCO summit as well as by the timing of the summit following the PM’s visit to the US. While India faces difficulties because of its bilateral differences with China and Pakistan, it seeks to deepen ties with other SCO nations, particularly in Central Asia.
Hosting the SCO summit virtually by India was a big diplomatic achievement that gave the country a forum for dialogue with other regional nations. India’s position on important problems was represented in Prime Minister Modi’s emphasis on terrorism, territorial integrity, and connectivity projects. India displayed its strategic independence by hosting the summit while navigating the difficulties brought on the bilateral issues. comprehending India’s participation in multilateral forums like the SCO is essential for comprehending the country’s foreign policy dynamics and strategic ambitions if you’re a prospective UPSC candidate.
Managing Internet Access and Public Order
Concerns have been expressed concerning the impact of India’s rising pattern of Internet shutdowns on public order.
GS Paper 3 : Internal Security – Law and Order
Talk about the effects of internet outages on different facets of society, including monetary losses, societal disruptions, and educational setbacks. How can governments combine upholding the rule of law with defending citizens’ rights to internet access? (150 words)
India’s internet was down, among other problems
- India imposed up to 84 internet shutdowns in 2022, according to a report by Access Now and the KeepItOn organisation.
- Shutdowns of the internet, which include the purposeful interruption of online communication, have a significant impact on many facets of society. They not only interfere with daily activities in a society that is becoming more digital, but they also have an impact on democratic movements and make it difficult to report on events and ask for assistance when they are in trouble.
Principal causes of internet outages
- India’s government frequently shuts down the internet as a law and order or administrative measure.It’s done to prevent the spread of rumours and false information that could worsen law and order conditions.
- In times of crisis, turning off the internet contributes to community peace.
Analysing the Effects of Internet Outages
- Economic Losses: Internet outages can cause considerable financial losses, particularly for companies whose operations depend on connectivity to the internet.
- Social Disruptions: People can interact, share information, and take part in social movements thanks to the internet, which also serves as a crucial communication tool. Internet outages stop these vital routes, obstructing communication between people and the free exchange of ideas.
- Political Repercussions: Internet blackouts are frequently used by governments to quell dissent, manage the flow of information, and restrict political opposition.
- Setbacks in Education: Internet outages can cause problems in the classroom, especially for students who rely on the internet for research and cooperation.
- Health Implications: The internet is essential for gaining access to telemedicine services, online support groups, and health information. Internet outages have made it harder to access essential medical materials during the Covid-19 outbreak.
The Management of Internet Blackouts in India
- The Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules, 2017, which are governed by the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, are in charge of regulating internet shutdown orders in India. These regulations give the Home Ministry’s top administrators the authority to impose temporary closures on the basis of a public emergency at both the federal and state levels.
- Website blocking is permitted by the Information Technology Act of 2000 in situations where a threat to national sovereignty, integrity, or defence exists. To ensure safety measures when restricting websites, rules have been set.
Decision of the Supreme Court and Subsequent Amendments
- In the historic decision of Anuradha Bhasin v. Union of India (2020), the Supreme Court ruled that ordering the shutdown of the internet was unlawful and emphasised the significance of necessity and proportionality.
- The Union government responded by amending the 2017 Rules in November 2020 to cap internet suspension orders at 15 days.
- However, the Standing Committee on Communication and Information Technology expressed its displeasure with the adjustments and suggested more changes to the 2017 Rules in December 2021.The committee stressed the necessity for a thorough assessment of the regulations, taking into account technological developments, minimising public disturbance, and issuing consistent standards for states and union territories.
Creating a Future Plan
- International organisations, including the United Nations, have the power to put pressure on states to uphold human rights and keep the internet open and accessible.
- Laws and rules that protect citizens’ rights to internet access and stop arbitrary shutdowns can be passed by governments.
- Alternative methods of internet access can be provided during shutdowns thanks to technological solutions like mesh networks and satellite communication, ensuring connectivity.
- Shutdowns of the internet have a wide range of effects on connection, society, and democratic procedures. To address these issues, it is crucial to uphold human rights, encourage open internet environments, and take use of technical advancements. Governments and international organisations can collaborate to reduce the harmful effects of internet outages and safeguard citizens’ freedoms of information access and communication by taking a comprehensive strategy.
Understanding the Reasons Behind the Frequency of Internet Outages
Due to the government of India frequently implementing Internet shutdowns, India will be responsible for 60% of all global shutdowns between 2016 and 2022.
Examining the Justification for Internet Blackouts
- The official justifications frequently centre on intercommunal strife, demonstrations, preventing exam-cheating, and religious processions.
- There are two types of shutdowns: preventative and reactive. In order to prevent potential disruptions to law and order, preventive shutdowns are implemented in advance of an expected event. Reactive shutdowns, on the other hand, are a way to retake control after an incident has already happened.
preserving law and order while maintaining the public interest
- The Supreme Court has reaffirmed the significance of maintaining Internet connectivity in cases like Anuradha Bhasin and Faheema Shirin.
- It makes the case that shutdowns should only be used in unusual situations that demand stringent control and monitoring. A shutdown should be brief, appropriately proportioned, and of limited duration.
- To safeguard the country’s security, sovereignty, integrity, and defence, as well as to stop crimes that are punishable by law, reasonable limitations, including shutdowns, may be enforced.
Keeping Downtime Reasonable and Ensuring Proportionality
- Stresses the significance of proportionality when determining if a shutdown is necessary. Extreme measures shouldn’t be justified for frivolous purposes like preventing exam cheating.
- It was implemented in Rajasthan and West Bengal prior to educational exams, stating that social challenges cannot be resolved by concentrating on easy pickings.
Evaluating Guidelines’ Compliance in Jammu & Kashmir and Manipur
- Experts oppose shutdowns, claiming that many decisions don’t follow the law. District magistrates frequently order shutdowns without the necessary authority.
- The review committee, as required by Rule 5 of the Temporary Suspension Rules, should meet within five working days, but the lack of transparency makes it difficult to determine whether shutdowns are justified.
- Imposing an Internet shutdown restricts fundamental rights, impacting people’s access to telemedicine, work, education, and basic necessities.
- They draw attention to the requirement for transparency in the publication of shutdown orders and condemn unworkable fixes, including whitelisting websites, which restrict access to essential services.
Impact reduction and alternative research
- Highlights the importance of giving a shutdown great thought because of its significant effects on people’s life.
- Instead of imposing total shutdowns, it advises looking into alternatives like restricting particular websites. While VPNs offer anonymity, they may be banned in government contexts, whereas essential sectors like healthcare and education should continue to be accessible.
Shutdowns of the internet make it difficult to preserve the peace and protect people’s rights and livelihoods. Propriety, conformity to legal requirements, transparency, and examination of other options are necessary for striking the proper balance between these factors. To ensure that the use of shutdowns stays rare and upholds citizens’ fundamental rights, an informed approach is essential.