Common values, shared threats in India-Australia cyber security ties

Western and media attention may be focused on the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, but countries have not taken their eye off the Indo-Pacific where there is clear evidence of the changing world order. This is manifest in the signing of the India-Australia Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement in goods and services earlier this month.

The botched US withdrawal from Afghanistan followed by China taking a serious interest in creating new economic, military and political alliances, and the impending energy crisis demand that nations recalibrate their strategic as well as long-term interests. The India-Australia ECTA is a concrete example of the bilateral faith in common values, and understanding of threats and goals. A reflection of this is cooperation in cyber security.

The Russia-Ukraine conflict has shown how cyber threat actors, both state and non-state, have become significant players in hybrid or “unrestricted” warfare. Both countries have let loose malicious elements in the information as well as operational space, while non-state actors like the hacktivist group Anonymous claimed to have caused significant damage to critical Russian and Belarusian financial and military infrastructure.

China is accused of having amassed a large number of cyber weapons and has allegedly carried out sophisticated operations aimed at espionage, theft of intellectual property, and destructive attacks on internet resources of some countries. Australia and India have been at the receiving end of several such campaigns by the so-called Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) groups, supported by or assumed to be located in China.

At the June 2020 virtual bilateral summit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison elevated the bilateral relationship to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. The new cyber framework includes a five-year plan to work together on the digital economy, cybersecurity and critical and emerging technologies. This will be supported by a $9.7 million fund for bilateral research to improve regional cyber resilience.

An annual Cyber Policy Dialogue, a new Joint Working Group on Cyber Security Cooperation and a joint working group on ICTs…