InfoperspectivesSeptember 9, 20200Threats From Cyberspace

Prescience; the foreknowledge of events. The special ability to see or know about events before they actually occur is a valued trait since time immemorial. Prescience is also closely associated with foreboding and premonition. There must surely be an evolutionary reason for this, as prescience would be a valuable trait for the survival of the species.

This article is not to do with the art or science of prescience, but has more to do with the very survival of the Indian nation. For there are many threats facing India during the pandemic, the most urgent is a stalled economy and the largest youth bulge in history. The threat of the PLA on the LAC, pales in
comparison as it is not existential in nature but surely can exacerbate both. All the above threats are visible to the common man and depending on various factors ranging from economic condition, age, political persuasion etc these will be ranked by most in differing orders of priorities.

For the student of warfare in the information age though, there lurks on the horizon an existential threat that is not so easily discerned by the common man. This has to do with human fallibilities. Democracies are political structures that have evolved by the collective experiences of humankind.
That includes a clear demarcation of powers among the legislature, executive and judiciary. A free press, an apolitical and professional military etc are all sine qua non for this democratic orchestra. Perfect harmony among all these institutions happens, but rarely and minor imbalances in the power structures of these are the norm and the resultant cacophony is the normal healthy condition of society.

The information age is different in many ways to previous ages. The most singular phenomenon is the rapid rise of Big Tech and the unprecedented velocity of accumulation of wealth and power in the hands of very few. Wealth usually begets power and vice versa, but the subtle difference this
time is the perfect synergy that surveillance capitalism has given to these new elite. The information advantage that accrues to the holders of data is absolute as the ability to coerce and cut through power structures by blackmail is unprecedented. The frailty of the human condition wherein
even saints and gods have weaknesses and secrets are what is exploited. Ubiquitous and pervasive surveillance fuelled by ICT technologies has for the first time allowed a few to have this advantage over the vast majority of the rest.

The alliance between intelligence agencies and Silicon Valley was what fostered surveillance capitalism.

It was but natural that this alliance would eventually alter power structures and the social contract that would affect the politics of the US. The Trump presidency is a revolt by the vast majority that did not benefit from globalism, was easily discerned. It also explains wherein the deep state is one of the primary and popular targets of President Trump. What
was not anticipated is the effect of all these on India whose ITES industry was the biggest job creator for a newly liberated economy. It also spawned a new elite, beneficiaries of its ties to Silicon valley.

August 2020 in that sense was momentous as the PM Modi for the first time alerted the nation on the importance of cyber security. The PM cautioned the nation about threats from cyber space that can harm the country’s society, economy and development. The PM added that the government of
India will soon come out with a policy on this.

For those of us who had been repeatedly voicing our concerns about India’s digital journey so far, this was pure music. The journey for India’s national security and economic future in the digital age was a story of missed opportunities and lacked strategic underpinning at best. India had rapidly
started digitising its economy with initiatives that ignored the national security dimensions of cyber space. Niti Aayog had on the previous day of the PM’s address, announced that it had selected Oracle an US MNC, to modernise vital IT infrastructure as part of its Aspirational Districts’ Programme.
It was almost as if the bureaucracy was not in sync with the PM and made his statement about the bureaucracy sabotaging his first term immediately after assuming office in his second term significant.

This was further followed by two articles from the Economic Times that an NGO called Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy had drafted the Data Protection Bill that would be legislated to protect the fundamental right to privacy. The ET Prime article also talked about Vidhi helping in drafting multiple other laws and policies. An NGO comprising of Indians helping the bureaucracy draft a law that would finally have public and legislative scrutiny would not have usually raised an eyebrow. In this instance it did, as one of the founders of Vidhi was a staunch proponent of Aadhar and had argued against privacy as a fundamental right. Curiously the report also mentioned
that the same gentleman was also on the Justice Sri Krishna Panel constituted post the land mark Puttaswamy judgement. The gentleman, also being a consultant to NATGRID, an organisation meant to interlink various sensitive databases is a minor footnote that triggered alarm.

Vidhi is backed by a who is who of Indian business houses and also by Omdiyar Networks a global foundation involved in various political movements, including The Better Than Cash Alliance. That most of these philanthropic organisations are run by business houses for profit who are going to be affected by the Data Protection bill is a clear conflict of
interest ! To fix the rules to win the game is the oldest trick in the book. In the information age these have a much larger strategic and societal import and is a clear threat to the Indian Republic. The Modi government has previously shown an ability to self correct, when presented with evidences to policy initiatives that can affect national interests as seen with
RCEP. It is time for the Prime Minister to intervene!

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of CIEU. And we donot assume any responsibility or liability for the same.


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