Global security threat perceptions have undergone a monumental shift due to the emergence of new security challenges. One of the new challenges for countries is how to protect their cyberspace from outside threats.
Taiwan and India have in the past few years become major targets of cyberattacks. Some reports suggested that Taiwan has been facing 20 million to 30 million attacks every month, as government departments and businesses have become a major target of cybercrime.
Given Taiwan’s security situation and its global presence in several key areas, including computer hardware and semiconductors, efforts have been made to access the nation’s confidential documents concerning defense ties with the US and other countries, as well as trade secrets.
On the other hand, India has also been targeted by massive cyberattacks, with the Indian government last year reporting almost 1.16 million cases.
India’s core infrastructure, including power, health, medicine, airlines and government data, have continuously been targeted.
China has been a major country of origin for cyberthreats against Taiwan and India.
The Investigation Bureau’s cybersecurity unit last year said that two hacking groups with direct links to the Chinese government had attacked at least 10 Taiwanese government institutions and hacked 6,000 e-mail accounts of government officials to steal vital information.
The attack took place just a week after then-US secretary of health and human services Alex Azar visited Taiwan.
Chinese hacker groups were reportedly also involved in an attack that cut the power supply to India’s largest city, Mumbai, last year.
As it has long-standing conflicts with Taiwan and India, China is determined to use all sorts of means against these countries.
However, the cybersecurity threat China poses, coupled with other factors, provides another avenue for cooperation between Taiwan and India. While the two sides have since the 1990s taken efforts to improve bilateral ties, the process of expanding cooperation has been too slow, but in times of fast changing security concerns and indications of strong political will on both sides, Taiwan and India should take concrete steps to establish cybersecurity cooperation.
Over the past few years, Taiwan has established a multilayered infrastructure to protect its cyberspace, including the formation of the National Information and Communication Security Taskforce and the Information and Electronic Warfare Command, and India has established the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team and the National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Centre.
The two countries can benefit from each other in several ways.
First, working together would enable them to know the functioning of each other’s cybersecurity system.
Second, as Taiwan has abundant experience concerning how Chinese hackers attack, India can learn from its expertise.
Third, the institutionalization of cooperation would foster a strong bond between India’s software capabilities and Taiwan’s leadership in hardware.
Fourth, the two countries could also explore the possibility of jointly working with the US, since they each individually already work with Washington on cybersecurity.
Fifth, there is need for an expansion of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue in terms of area and membership. In doing so, India and the other members should make the issue of cybersecurity cooperation a priority and integrate Taiwan.
Sixth, Taiwan can play a pivotal role in helping India shore up its military infrastructure, which is vulnerable to China-backed cyberattacks.
Keeping in mind the need for fostering cybersecurity cooperation, the two sides should develop a framework for identifying, coordinating, sharing and implementing cybersecurity best practices. They should take steps toward promoting cooperation in the fields of cybersecurity related research and development, cybersecurity standards and security testing, including accreditation process and cybersecurity product development, and hold further consultations on the issues.
India and Taiwan can also undertake joint skill development and capacity building programs in the fields of cybersecurity, efforts to combat cybercrime, digital forensics and legal frameworks.
Holding consultations and taking steps toward improving the effectiveness of transnational cybercrime cooperation can help the two sides expand cooperation.
Of course, the relationship would face some structural problems if the two sides decide to expand the scope of their engagement.
However, the time is ripe, and India needs to move beyond its past hesitation and engage Taiwan in a more constructive way.
Undoubtedly, the establishment of cybersecurity cooperation would mark a new chapter in Taiwan-India relations.
Sumit Kumar is a post-doctoral fellow at the Indian Council of Social Science Research and a former Ministry of Foreign Affairs visiting fellow at National Chengchi University.
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