05 July, 2013

Security v/s Compromised Privacy - Where is the line ?

(Pic courtesy : manjul.com via Google)

There have been reactions of shock and disbelief all over the media over Salman Khurshid saying something to the effect that the US were not snooping and that it was routine scrutiny.  He went to the extent of actually defending the US (even though India is listed as one among the countries which the US has been snooping on) by saying that he finds nothing wrong in it because the US has been able to prevent many terrorist attacks and if they can pass on relevant information and help prevent such attacks, there is absolutely nothing wrong with their “scrutiny”.
Why the Indian government has been making it a point to assure the world that India is one country that can be pushed around anytime anyone chooses to, I guess is beyond most people in the country. 
Notwithstanding the fact that nationally, to call the current government dismal would actually be giving them a compliment, they have before and they are now going out of their way to prove to the world that we, as a nation, can be pushed around.  What the Ministry has going on behind its closed doors is something that is never ever going to be revealed to the public.  But when the country’s Foreign Minister puts as much into words, he needs to remember that he speaks on behalf of the citizens of the country.
Yet again, this is not the first time the Indian government is acting submissive when it should actually have registered and expressed its indignation over incidents that have a direct bearing on the citizens of the country as a whole and on the image and standing of the country in general.
In early 2012, an Indian Air Force officer from Arunachal Pradesh was refused a visa by the Chinese government.  The Chinese government has been consistently refusing visas to anyone from Arunachal Pradesh on the basis of their argument that they consider Arunachal Pradesh a part of Chinese territory.  What did the Indian government do then ?  Instead of taking up the matter with the Chinese government, the Indian government opted for the easier solution – they dropped this Air Force officer from the group that was to visit China.  In one instance in the past, the CM of Arunachal Pradesh has been denied a visa by the Chinese government.  This matter was not raised with the Chinese authorities either.  Even when the Chinese Army crossed the line and stepped into Indian territory, the government chose to downplay the whole thing with the government calling it a "localised incident" and a "variance in perception with regard to the actual Line of Control".  The image this projects is definitely not one of a government that respects its own territory, expects respect from other countries over the drawn Line of Control or one that stands for the rights of its citizens.   
The US has always been and will always be a bully.  There is a lot of talk going on about what the US should have done, what the US should do, what the US should not have done and what the US should not do in the future.  This talk is going to continue and the US is going to continue doing what it wants to do, with complete disregard and impunity, as they always have.
While we are yelling and screaming ourselves hoarse over how the US should not have “snooped”, give this a thought for a minute.  Does India have laws laid down that clearly distinguish between privacy and “an acceptable lack of privacy for the purpose of security”?
No.  Nor is anything being done about laying down this basic framework.
There are no lines drawn on this issue, there is no clear demarcation between what is considered private and what is considered “an accessibility for the purpose of security”.   It is a given that when it comes to security, a certain amount of privacy is going to be compromised but the question is exactly where is that line going to be drawn ?  In the case of India, there is also a question of when that line is going to be drawn, if at all.  That line, in India, which calls itself a democratic republic for all practical purposes, as of today, does not exist.  What is needed over this issue is not some “behind the scenes” manipulation at the top levels of the government.  What is needed is an open deliberation on the privacy and security issue, in parliament.
Yet, without even having this basic framework in place, the Indian government has actually gone ahead, tabled and passed what it claims is the National Cyber Security Policy ??  The Cyber Security Policy is also said to have rather huge aims and objectives without actually mentioning how the government plans to go about implementing it or achieving its stated objectives.  Well, atleast they are consistent on that front - on not being able to deliver what they promise.
End of the day, the Indian government’s abject failure to even try and understand the needs of its people, let alone protect their rights, is being laid bare, exposed for all the citizens of this democratic nation and for the entire world, to see. 
Sure isn’t a pretty sight.

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