(MEA) The Ministry of External Affairs has made the government’s preliminary clearance mandatory for hosting international conferences, training, and seminars online and also forbidden such virtual events on themes related to India’s security, Northeast states, Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh, or any other issue concerning the country’s internal matters.
The new set of guidelines, published in November last year and part of the new “approval procedure” notified by the MEA for performing virtual events, apply to all government ministries and departments, Public Sector Undertakings, public-funded universities, and organizations controlled and run by the Union and state governments.
The organizers of the virtual event will now have to reach their respective “administrative secretary” for approval regarding the theme and the list of participants. For instance, a Central university keen on hosting an online international conference will have to seek prior approval from the Ministry of Education.
The new approval process has the academic community concerned. There is no difficulty writing letters to the government for permission. We had been writing to MEA anyway to promote visas for foreign speakers for offline conferences. The problem is that government reactions are always postponed or come just in time. Now that we are expected to approach them for all online conferences too only means more delays. It will come to be hard to now organize online conferences, said an IIT director.
MEA has also advised against hosting online meetings on IT applications and platforms either regulated or owned or hosted by agencies or countries hostile to India. The Home Ministry had issued an advisory in April last year saying Zoom, the video conference app, is not a safe platform. Since then, government administrators have been preventing meetings hosted on the platform. However, the MEA’s document on online conferences doesn’t name any specific platform.
Besides, the ministry has instructed constraint and attention when it comes to data and content shared during online conferences.