Date :05-Jan-2022

A prime threat to national security is the exposure to Cyber attacks of the adversary carried out by way of hacking of vital systems -- this is a new dimension of ‘proxy war’. Civil military cooperation on research and Intelligence production in the sphere of cyber security has to be built on solid foundations.
 I NTELLIGENCE being the anchor of security, two fundamentals of national security provide the reasons for a periodical examination of whether the Intelligence infrastructure and its methodology were in need of an upgrade and expansion. First is the reality that the threat perspectives were never static since geo-politics could alter and new adversarial fronts shape up. The second is the principle that says ‘Security is a matter of degree’ implying that it should never be presumed to be perfect and should be constantly improved. Our Intelligence agencies have performed very well with their existing resources and outreach but they might need a further backing, technological advance and new levels of coordination to measure up to the emerging challenges. Some of the new features of the contemporary security environs can be easily identified.
There is a shift from open warfare to ‘covert’ offensives in the post- Cold War world and nearer home use of terrorism by Pakistan as an instrument of ‘asymmetric war’ against India in Kashmir and elsewhere has necessitated induction of the Armed Forces in security operations on our own soil. This has pushed civil- military cooperation to an entirely new level, called for close functional rapport between DIA and civilian Intelligence set-up and made it vital for the Army to train for adherence to Intelligence-based operations for minimising collateral damage. AFSPA may still be needed in the situation that was developing, but would require strict compliance in accordance with the spirit of law so as to avoid any charge of heavy handedness against the Army. Its operations fall under the umbrella of ‘aid to civil authority’.
The Army has generally performed its duties in difficult areas, quite well. Another prime threat to national security is the exposure to Cyber attacks of the adversary carried out by way of hacking of vital systems -- this is a new dimension of ‘proxy war’. Cyber defence has an intrinsic challenge because the breach was detected only after the attack had occurred and mitigation therefore had to be prompt and effective. Civil military cooperation on research and Intelligence production in the sphere of cyber security has to be built on solid foundations. The ‘jointness’ of Defence forces being established by the CDS should help in evolving shared protocols for Intelligence agencies, NTRO and DIA under the auspices of NSCS. It is necessary to focus on prevention of cyber attacks -- however difficult it might be. Also, it is now well known that social media has become the new instrument of combat and wherever it is used in a planned way to influence public opinion through a ‘covert’ operation, Intelligence will be required to get into its roots and identify the adversary behind the scene operating from within the country or outside.
There are laws against the misuse of social media but Intelligence is now needed about the elements and forces who could be directing an ‘information warfare’ using this medium for false propaganda, fake news and ‘radicalisation’. A new phenomenon -- going beyond the problem of NGOs with a hidden agenda -- is the advent of sponsored civil society forums and tinted writings designed to turn public opinion against a democratically elected dispensation. They sometimes acted in concert with the anti-India lobbies at home and abroad that played up vague issues like ‘majoritarianism’, ‘authoritarianism’ and ‘minority’ rights to destabilise a constitutional set up. Intellectualism could even become the new tool of politics by proxy. This facet of civil society activity adversely impacting on the national security belonged to the deeper layers of ‘unconventional war’ in which even an open challenge to national integrity and sovereignty and ridiculing of the idea of paying respect to national flag and national anthem, were sought to be legitimised in the name of freedom of expression and democratic right.
This is what NSA Ajit Doval warned against while addressing the IPS Probationers at Hyderabad recently. All of this however, does not detract from the fact that a large number of NGOs in this country are engaged in purposeful social and philanthropic endeavours to the benefit of India as a nation. Last but not the least, a potent strategic threat to national security of India now is attributable to the Sino- Pak military alliance -- an axis of a Marxist state and a fundamentalist regime -- that rests on a huge ‘give and take’ made by the two adversaries of India at the cost of the latter. These two hostile neighbours have a certain capability of playing mischief on India’s domestic front and are expectedly acting together even more closely following the scrapping of Article 370 relating to Jammu and Kashmir, by Indian Parliament. The anti- India lobbies have also become active in this period encouraged to an extent by the leaders of the Valley-based parties who always interpolated Pakistan in the equation between the citizens of Jammu & Kashmir and the Centre -- they never said a word about the terrorist violence instigated by that country from across the PoK using faith-based motivation to recruit terrorists. The policy of ‘terror and talks don’t go together’ has been appreciated by the world outside. In the fitness of things Centre should initiate measures to deter those who promoted pro-Pak separatism in Kashmir.
Apart from an examination of the needs of individual Intelligence agencies for organisational expansion and added resources, the matters of coordination -- in both operational and long term endeavours -- within the entirety of national security set up covering civil, military and technological segments, may have to be given special attention. Moreover, the internal security front has made the police an important first responder in many situations and the collaboration between the Central security agencies and the State Police has therefore acquired a new-found importance. As threats to security like terrorism translate closer to the ground, the role of state and even District Intelligence has come into sharp focus. The recent DGPs conference demonstrated how the Centre- State cooperation in the sphere of Intelligence for national security could be kept above party politics. The Prime Minister’s call for establishing a National Technology Mission for Policing under the chairmanship of Union Home Minister, paves the way for advancing in this direction.
Comprehensive arrangements for Centre- State coordination can be evolved for serving the national objectives considering the fact that Police responsibility now goes beyond maintenance of law and order to include active participation in the safeguarding of Internal Security. Also, an important point for national security is to ensure that our Intelligence agencies attract the best of available talent from within and outside of the Government. (IANS) (The writer is a former Director of Intelligence Bureau)