The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has made the government's approval mandatory for hosting online international seminars, conferences and training. Moreover, the MEA also forbade events related to India's security, internal matters and matters related to the Northeast states, Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh.
Central and State government ministries and departments, Public Sector Undertakings, public-funded universities and organisations oversee and run by the central and state governments would have to mandatorily abide by the set guidelines if they wish to organise such events.
The virtual event organisers will now need permission from their respective 'administrative secretary' related to the theme and the list of participants. For instance, if a central university is eager to host an international conference online, it will have to seek clearance from the Ministry of Education. But matters related to the security and internal matters will likely be prohibited, reported The Indian Express.
"While giving approval, the respective Ministry should ensure that the subject for online events is not related to the security of State, Border, North-east states, UT of Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh or any other matter which are clearly or purely related to India's internal matters," according to a memorandum by MEA.
However, the document does not define or detail what would qualify as the country's internal matter.
The new approval policy has made the academic community fearful. Sharing the challenges expected to crop up during the process, an IIT director told the publication that they encountered delays in government responses while writing to arrange visas for foreign speakers for online conferences.
"Now, we are expected to approach them for all online conferences. It will become difficult now to organise online conferences," he said.
In addition to this, MEA has also cautioned towards organising online conferences on IT applications and platforms which are either managed or hosted by business or countries hostile to India. Last year, the Union Home Ministry had issued an advisory on Zoom, the video conference app, citing digital safety concerns. Since then, government officers have been avoiding conferences on the platform.