1. India’s Return to Central Asia
The inaugural India-Central Asia Summit, the India-Central Asia Dialogue, and the Regional Security Dialogue on Afghanistan in New Delhi — all held over the past four months — collectively indicate a renewed enthusiasm in New Delhi to engage the Central Asian region.
Why a renewed interest?
- The decline of American presence due to the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan has led to a reassertion by China and Russia seeking to fill the power vacuum.
- In the wake of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, New Delhi faces a major dilemma in theatres like the Line of Control and the Line of Actual Control.
- India in the region might get further hemmed in due to the combined efforts by China, Pakistan and Taliban-led Afghanistan.
- Also, Moscow supports India’s engagement in this region to counter influence of the U.S.
- The U.S. recognises the utility of Moscow-New Delhi relations in Central Asia to offset Beijing’s ever-growing influence.
- India’s engagement of Central Asia would also help it to consolidate its post-American Afghan policy.
- China, which shares a land border with the region, is already a major investor there.
- Iran, is the viable option to reach central Asia via Chahbahar port and by rail, road etc. However, India-Iran relations depend on result of Iran nuclear deal.
Role of Russia:
- Russia is close to China, CAR and now to Pakistan. India can use this opportunity to reduce its rift with Russia.
- Possibility of joint Indo-Russia collaboration on defence facilities in the CAR region to meet local demands and increase India’s participation.
- Discussions taking place on trilateral exercises between Russia, India and CAR.
2. Weighing in on a Health Data Retention Plan:
Recently, the National Health Authority (NHA) has initiated a consultation process on the retention of health data by healthcare providers in India. NHA administers the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (ABDM).
Why do we need a privacy centric policy for health data?
- SC of India has declared that privacy is a fundamental right and any interference into the right must pass a four-part test: legality; legitimate aim; proportionality, and appropriate safeguards. The mandatory retention of health data is a form of interference with the right to privacy.
- While health data provides greater convenience, choice, promotes research and innovation. but sensitive and improper disclosure can cause significant harm.
- According to Indian law, if an individual’s rights are to be curtailed due to anticipated benefits, then those benefits must be clearly defined and identifiable.
- Standards for anonymisation are still developing. We are not yet able to rule out the possibility of anonymised data still being linked back to specific individuals.
- NHA is not a sector-wide regulator. Hence, it has no legal basis for formulating guidelines for healthcare providers in general.
Challenges related to health data:
- Issues with the informed consent of the individual as in India patients rely on the expertise and advice of doctors.
- If consent is made necessary for accessing state-provided services, then many people will agree because they do not have any other way to access that care.
- A simple classification system exposes individuals to harms arising from over-collection and retention of unnecessary data.
- This kind of one-size-fits-all system can also lead to the under-retention of data that is genuinely required for research or public policy needs.
- User-based classification process: Health-care service providers — and everyone else — will have to comply with the data protection law, once it is adopted by Parliament.
- A second safeguard would be to anonymise data that is being retained for research purposes — again, unless a specific case is made for keeping personally identifiable information.
- An alternate basis for retaining data can be the express and informed consent of the individual in question.
- Efforts must be made to minimize the extent of data collected, and it should be stored only for the required amount of time so that the likelihood of any breach can be prohibited.
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