Role of Technology in National Security
PM Heblikar outlines the critical need for institutions like MRC to equip the country to face the challenges of the future.
National security in India can no longer be seen in its narrow military terms. There are more players in this space than before; this is a healthy and positive development for India, which is set on a course to become a five trillion-dollar economy by 2025. Two developments in 2020 – the corona-virus pandemic, and China’s abortive attempts to unilaterally change the status quo on the Indo-Tibet border – have exposed the fault lines in India’s management of national security and political governance.
It is true India does not have a national security doctrine as yet. Since 1947 there had not been a comprehensive and pro-active review of national security management and development of a totally futuristic policy encompassing all aspects of the subject. The Kargil Review Committee Report (KRC), set up following the Kargil war with Pakistan in 1999, was the first major document, involving participation of India’s top political brass, on the subject. India had conducted four in-house reviews prior to the KRC, one involved China (1962), one was terrorism-related (26/11), and the rest Pakistan centric (1965, 1971 and 1999). There were other periodic reviews including the Naresh Chandra Task Force.
A study of these reports as available in the public domain reveals two major challenges. Firstly, that our institutions of governance, both domestic and foreign policy, are based on sector-specific knowledge and management systems and they are unable to collaborate to deliver multi-disciplinary and multi-sector responses to national and international developments. Secondly, there is no salience across the spectrum to deliver responses without wasting scarce financial resources for maximum or best results.
The ‘silo’ system dominates our systems of management even today and therefore needs to be addressed. The pandemic has resulted in sharp accretion of subjects like pharmaceuticals, health and medical care, water, climate, environment, energy, IT & ICT, supply chain, transportation, and technology to the traditional security platform.
National security has to be inculcated into our educational system at the level of high schools, universities, both public and private, and higher institutions of public education including the institutes of technology and management. State governments and Union Territories also need to focus on this aspect. Greater participation of the corporate sector and industry in building comprehensive national strength needs to be underlined and must become a part of the ethos. The government is not the only promoter of this strategy; it is also the responsibility of others, directly or indirectly.
Coastal security like cyber security is an important subtext of the national security management of India. The subject of cyber security has become organized under the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS), with a former three-star General of the Army as head of the cyber security wing. Likewise, it is expected that the maritime administration and advisory functions will similarly be unified under the NSCS. It will be a great force multiplier and game changer. Such an arrangement will augur well for all aspects of maritime safety, security, maritime technology and perhaps even become a facilitator of private –public synergy. Once this happens, it will become a precursor for a new era for not only national but also regional cooperation.
Institutions such as the Maritime Research Centre (MRC) are potential drivers of a national security eco-system. I must congratulate its management on embarking on projects of national interest and of long term consequences. It has many takeaways, including the creation of a strong base for research and development in Underwater Domain Awareness (UDA) as an example of public-private partnership (PPP). The other is providing a road map for subject specific education, creating maritime awareness among government and private stakeholders, and research and development that will lead to skills development and capacity building. When the First National Cyber Security Policy was unveiled in 2013, it set the parameters and recommended the creation of 500,000 ‘cyber foot soldiers’ for the country.
The Second Version of the National Cyber Security Policy has been approved by the Government and is due to be formally announced. Some of its features were outlined by Lt. Gen. Rajesh Pant, National Cyber Security Coordinator (NCSC) in October 2020 at a webinar hosted by three think-tanks, entitled ‘Deciphering China – Cyber security and India’s response’. On February 02, 2021, Gen. Pant delivered the key note speech at the inaugural ceremony of the Singapore based Indo-Pacific Centre, where he was joined by his counterparts from Singapore, Japan and the USA. It was an education to listen him and also the manner in which a senior public servant articulated an important subject with lucidity and ease. This should be an object lesson for civil and military officials to share public platforms on subjects of national interest.
Such webinars reflect a new and positive trend, which is important to reassure the public. The ‘Deciphering China’ webinar series, held over two days, brought together professionals, experts, technocrats and others on the maritime context. Such an assemblage on a single platform was unprecedented especially on subjects that have been on discussed publicly. MRC was represented by Cdr. Arnab Das at this webinar.
To achieve its ambitions of becoming a five trillion-dollar economy by 2025, India needs to create more professionals in the fields of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IOT), Block Chain Technology (BCT) and Machine Learning (ML). The maritime sector may be in an eminent position to provide leadership to the coastal states, maritime universities and technology training institutions. The MRC has taken these into consideration and can become a thought leader as well. Technology must give the defense and security planners, and private sector technology giants the cutting edge to ‘detect, deter, destroy and document’ inimical actions before they unfold. The role for MRC and its affiliates is critical.
P M Heblikar
Managing Trustee, Institute of Contemporary Studies Bangalore (ICSB)Former Special Secretary, Government of India