China-Pakistan Cyber Security Cooperation


Aamna Rafiq

With cutting-edge technological development in the field of artificial intelligence, robotics, quantum computing and world`s top class information and communication technology (ICT) Companies, China is all set to rule the global cyberspace. With over 802 million users, China has the world`s highest number of internet users. Among them 788 million (98 %) are mobile users which is a proof of China`s increasing presence in the cyberspace and capability to replace US dominance over the internet. According to Global Innovation Index 2018, China is among the world`s top 20 most innovative economies. The government of China has developed a comprehensive cyberspace regulation system consisting of new policies, laws and institutions which has transformed the national and international cyberspace landscape. The Chinese model is based on the ideology of cyber sovereignty. Beijing believes that every country should be independent to regulate cyberspace in accordance with its national law and cyber culture. Pakistan also shares a similar ideology. Both countries emphasize on the establishment of reliable international cyberspace regime that promotes mutual cooperation and have agreed to bridge the cyberspace development gaps. Both are willing to construct international and multilateral partnerships for the growth of digital economies. Pakistan along with China is playing active role in negotiation process for international cyberspace treaty at First and Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and United Nations Groups of Governmental Experts (UNGGE) at United Nations Security Council (UNSC). At bilateral level, the Long-Term Plan for China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (2017 – 2030) identified the ICT infrastructure development as one of the key areas of cyber security cooperation between the two countries. The Ministry of Planning, Development and Reform in collaboration with the Chinese National Development & Reform Commission envisioned the promotion of cyberspace connectivity through the construction of a “cross-border optical fibre network” in 2016. This 820km long cable from Rawalpindi to Khunjerab, constructed with the total cost of US $ 44 billion became commercial in February 2019. The construction of another optical fibre network from Sukkur to Gwadar is on the cards to complete the North-South optical cable silk route which could be expanded eastwards to the landlocked countries of Central Asia. This digital corridor will not only ensure a reliable, fast, cost-effective connectivity between the two neighbours and other regional countries but also generate a significant amount of revenue for Pakistan. It will increase the internet penetration rate of Pakistan especially Gilgit-Baltistan and Balochistan. Another landmark achievement is the construction of China`s first-ever privately owned submarine cable system known as the “Pakistan & East Africa Connecting Europe (PEACE) in collaboration with Pakistan and South Africa. The Chinese Company (PEACE Cable International Network Co) will construct 12,000 km cable system in collaboration with Pakistani Company CyberNet. This cable will have landing stations in France, Kenya, Djibouti, Egypt and Pakistan. It will add 96 Tb/s to the total internet capacity of Pakistan. Before the operationalization of this network, Pakistan was dependent on the other networks developed by a consortium of American and Indian companies which were posing challenges to the national cybersecurity of Pakistan and China e.g. communication surveillance, loss of connectivity with global network in conflict situation. Another issue directly linked with this project is the only submarine internet cable landing station in Karachi that connects Pakistan with the global submarine network of internet cables. The governments of China and Pakistan have planned a joint construction of second landing station at Gwadar to minimize the disruption of internet traffic in case of damage to the Karachi station. The construction of this new station is expected to start in 2021 after final feasibility report. According to the initial plan this station will cover the 10,000 square meters’ area of Gwadar. The second initiative mentioned in the Long-Term Plan is the extensive upgradation of network facilities and national data centres in Pakistan. The core objective of this initiative is to increase and diversify the ICT based development projects in Pakistan e.g. safe city projects, digital monitoring of international borders, e-governance and e-commerce systems. A significant progress has been achieved in this respect. Safe City Projects were successfully completed in Lahore and Islamabad in collaboration with the Chinese Company Huawei. The Safe City Projects will be soon started in Karachi, Peshawar, Quetta and Gwadar as well. Pakistan`s first-ever “National Data Centre” established in collaboration with Huawei is already operational. Another gigantic and centralized data centre will be completed in 2020 for the improved e-governance services for the citizens of Pakistan. Enhancement of Pakistan`s ICT human resource through technical expert exchange programs is another core area of cybersecurity cooperation. Under this initiative, an MoU was signed between the National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST) and the Beihang University for the establishment of advance Cybersecurity Research Centre (CSRC) at NUST in January, 2019. The objective of CSRC aims at organizing workshops, conferences and summer schools to create and increase cybersecurity awareness. This Centre will also facilitate the mutual exchange of faculty and students enthusiastic for the research and development of cyberspace. The cooperation in cyberspace will strengthen the strategic partnership between Pakistan and China. The mutual efforts to achieve a secure, stable and accessible ICT will promote regional security, peace and development. It will unleash the huge geopolitical and commercial benefits for both countries. Cooperation in cyberspace will strengthen the strategic partnership between Pakistan and China. The mutual efforts to achieve a secure, stable and accessible ICT will promote regional security, peace and development. It will unleash the huge geopolitical and commercial benefits for both countries. It is a golden opportunity for Pakistan to achieve the policy objectives and development of strategic as well as non-strategic components of ICT, accurately identified in the National Science, Technology and Innovation Policy 2012 and Digital Pakistan Policy 2018. (Courtesy: JISS)

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