In late 2018, the government decided to set up three new agencies — the Defence Cyber Agency, the Defence Space Agency and the Special Operations Division — in order to address the new age challenges to national security. 

Background –

The Naresh Chandra Committee and the Chiefs of Staff Committee both suggested the formation of three separate joint commands to deal with the new challenges to India’s national security in the cyber, space and special operations domains.

Need

  • The current focus in military thinking across the world is increasingly moving away from traditional heavy-duty military hardware to high-tech innovations such as artificial intelligence (AI), big data analytics, satellite jammers, hypersonic strike technology, advanced cyber capabilities and spectrum denial and high-energy lasers.
  • In the light of the unprecedented capabilities that these systems offer, there is also an increased focus on developing suitable command and control as well as doctrinal concepts to accommodate and calibrate them.
  • The arrival of these technologies might deeply frustrate strategic stability as we know it given their disruptive nature. Strategic stability in the contemporary international system, depends on the state’s nuclear arsenal where hypersonic glide vehicles replace conventional delivery systems, real time tracking, surveillance, and AI-enabled systems.

Concerns –

  • While on the one hand, it is imperative for states to redesign their systems in the light of these new technologies, this also makes the cyber- and digital-enabled systems vulnerable to covert cyberattacks. Such an attack might lead to uncontrolled escalation with little time for assessment and judgement.
  • Such vulnerabilities may increase the risks of intentional and inadvertent nuclear use. Such scenarios may be unlikely but not improbable.
  • The fear of a bolt-from-the-blue attack against one’s command and control systems or a disabling strike against strategic arsenal using new technological solutions is likely to dominate the strategic mindspace of great powers in the days ahead, thereby further deepening mistrust and creating instability.

Chinese capabilities

  • Some analysts believe that Beijing is in the lead position in emerging technologies with potential military applications such as quantum computing, 3D printing, hypersonic missiles and AI.
  • While the Chinese focus is evidently on U.S. capabilities, which China interprets as a potential threat, this is not without latent concerns for New Delhi. India might, in turn, consider developing some of these technologies which will create dilemmas for Islamabad.
  • The cascading strategic competition then looks unavoidable at this point, and that is worrisome. And yet, it might be difficult to avoid some of these developments given their dual use.

Way forward for India –

We must revisit the government’s decision, structure and powers assigned to these newly set up agencies to address cyber and space challenges.

Conclusion –

Reports indicate that the Space Command will be headed by the Air Force, the Army will head the Special Operations Command, and the Navy will be given the responsibility of the Cyber Command. If indeed that happens, their effectiveness in terms of tri-service synergy will be much less than anticipated.

SourceThe Hindu