Author: Harsh V Pant
International Institute for Strategic Study, an organization working in fifteen countries, has found that all the cyber power of India is directed against Pakistan, while more attacks on it are being done by China. There are two things in this. First, strategically, our focus has been on Pakistan for a long time. That’s why the eyes of our institutions are still on Pakistan and it takes time to change the institutions. Secondly, it is wrong to see Pakistan and China separately. India is fighting this battle on two fronts. China will not do many things itself, but Pakistan will do the same thing on its behalf. So it becomes necessary for India to focus on Pakistan. However, I think the mindset is changing after the Galvan incident last year. We have seen how the focus is now on China in every field.
more emphasis on pakistan
This study further says that there are many shortcomings in India’s cyber war strategy. China and Pakistan are not normal states. On one side is Pakistan, where the army is very powerful. The priorities of the military are reflected in his foreign policy. On the other side is China. What happens there, what about us, even a country like America does not know. In China too, the role of the army has increased in the last few years. When you have two such countries on either side, the situation becomes a bit serious. In these two neighboring countries, the army is using unconventional methods, such as gray zone operations. Think of it like that Pakistani army cannot come directly in front of Indian army, so it sponsors terrorism. This is the gray zone operation.
China’s account is second in this matter. He tries to hide his abilities and sway the opponent in an unconventional way. That’s why he uses hackers, sponsors them. If the hackers acted, he would say that he had nothing to do with it. Anyway, the world of internet is so big that it is very difficult to find out who is doing what sitting where. But India has no less capacity.
The conspiracy that took place in the Wuhan lab was disclosed by the Indians sitting here. But so far there has been no discussion on how to use this capability. You will find very few things on cyber war in the policy area. Our army is also not that trend yet. There have been some changes, but China is far ahead. We have seen cyber attacks on western countries including India, so we have to admit that our attack capability is very less.
In such a situation, there is also a way out that the help of western countries should be taken. America, Britain and France are there, Israel is also expert in this. One thing to learn from Israel is that it also conducts cyber attacks. We saw in Iran that there were major cyber attacks on some institutions. Israel’s hand is believed to be behind this. This means that he knows how to defend as well as attack. In Western countries, America will have to learn how to protect open society.
Looking at the attacks after the Galvan incident, it would not be wrong to assume that most of our organizations are falling prey to hacking. India will have to make a policy by accepting this reality. We are an open society. There is democracy here. We cannot lock ourselves like China, so our critical infrastructure has to be protected. These important sectors include pharma industry, power grid. It has to be assumed that such things of importance will be targeted like the cyber attacks on power grids in the past.
If you think that the battle going on on the border with China is the real fight, then know that ‘Dragon’ never fights like this. He attacks the weakness of another country. When we have shown that we too can stand on the border, why would he fight there? He will find our weakness and attack there. And we are weak in cyber defense too. Our government websites get hacked, data centers get hacked.
need a strategic policy
The same logic is used in the case of nuclear war, the same logic is also used in the case of cyber attack. The other country will hesitate from cyber war only when it feels that you can also attack. It is not the same thing that America and Rafale bought guns from France. This is a matter of Cyber Security Coordination. A strategic policy has to be made.
It is said that we are building the capability to defend against cyber warfare. My point is that we have to build our capacity to attack too, but it is not in our strategic culture to say so. However, building attack capability is not a difficult task. If you want hackers, then today you will find many in India. Youngsters are expert in this work. I know of Britain. Such people have been kept there. But in India there is no such provision. Just thinking about it right now. By the way, policy makers know very well that they have no other option now.
(The author is Professor of International Relations at King’s College, London and Director of the Studies and Strategic Studies Program at the Observer Research Foundation. These are his personal views)
Disclaimer: The views expressed above are those of the author.