Information warfare has been in security and military domain since time immemorial and is set to witness tensions in the future. It takes several forms such as psychological warfare, asymmetric warfare, unconventional and many more. Traditionally wars were of conventional in nature where firepower, infantry troops and mechanization play a predominant role.
This method of unconventional warfare was also advocated by Kautilya, including Chinese strategist Sun Tzu in his famous treatise ‘Art of War’. Today the battlefield has totally been compressed between time and space. The present Information era, cyberspace, advance quantum computing enabled communication, unmanned systems, social media, have proved to become tools of influence. Therefore, the focus from the ground battle has shifted towards the battle of minds. Calling for integration of information, cyber and space domains.
Sun Tzu advocates the use of information in best possible to win battles. Sun Tzu’s two most important principle of war of relevance in present times are, “strike where the enemy is not prepared, take him by surprise”.
Similarly, Kautilya’s Arthasashthra emphasized much more on Nantrayudha (war by counsel), Kutayudha (concealed and psychological warfare), Gudayudha (clandestine and covert methods) and deception.
History stands testimony to use of these tactics and one of the most important was in the Battle of transoxiana (1219-20) where the Mongol king Genghis khan used the method of unconventional forms to win over the adversary.
China has been using its Three Warfare Strategy since 2003. The impetus for China to develop cyber warfare capabilities had came from the U.S. model of using information as a strategic tool in warfare. Such capabilities were effectively used by the U.S. during the Gulf War and military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Looking at ancient Chinese history effective intelligence played a seminal role in the efforts of successive Chinese dynasties to deal with their external threats primarily the warring nomadic tribes. The Fall of Qing dynasty was a set back to Chinese intelligence and thus further they augmented its power playing capability in the information warfare domain and led a succession against the gathering up Manchurians role and then dismantling them which again raised Chinese stature of its role. In the 19th century Chinese intelligence also played an important role during the Sino-Japanese war and later the Civil War that led to the victory of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) over the Kuomintang (China).
Chairman Mao and later Deng Xiaoping, during the extended civil war, heavily relied on CCP’s secret and covert actions to get rid of his political opponents. No one has internalized this, more than the Chinese, the fact that strategic strength of a nation is directly proportionate to its knowledge dominance and the philosophy of its nature relies in its Sun Tzu dictum of, “knowing the enemy more than you know about yourself”.
Across the Chinese military domain much has been written and known about its modernized armed forces, its technologies, weapon production but not known much about its hidden cyber propaganda and its war fighting capability in terms of information. It becomes all the more relevant in the Chinese context, as espionage has been integral part in its tradition and state craft.
China lays greater emphasis on psychological, influencing public opinion and legal warfare where it has developed its information-based war fighting capabilities. For China is aware that in its quest to become a superpower it would have to compete with the US. With this they aim to leapfrog in military competition with the U.S. or other technologically advanced rivals by developing cyber war waging capabilities.
China accorded high priority to develop such capabilities in the last decade. For some time, China’s cyber army remained decentralized with different bureaus functioning under different ministries and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
However, in July 2010, China’s Central Military Commission (CMC) approved the establishment of an ’Information Security Base’ which intends to bring together the diffused cyber teams under one umbrella to ensure greater coordination and focus. It has seen the vast use of asymmetric information war against the people of Xinxiang and Tibet provinces in the China’s Western and South Western region which shows how China state own actors are changing the situations with keeping pace with Russia and US cyber capabilities.
There have been certain events that indicate the Chinese government and PLA’s attempts to recruit potential talents from the hacking community. In the summer of 2005, a report indicated that the PLA conducted a series of hacker competitions at regional and provincial levels possibly to screen for Computer Network Operations (CNO) recruits.
Similarly, job vacancy announcements were made on two of the most prominent Chinese hacker forums in 2007-2008, for Ministry of Public Security’s First Research Institute. China’s growing ability to use cyber warfare as an asymmetric weapon is evident as it builds a task force that is capable of striking the enemy’s notch point. As it appears, China would continue to augment its capability to conduct cyber warfare and when complimented with an “Informationised” military, it becomes a great concern not only for the U.S, against which essentially the Chinese efforts are directed, but also raises security concerns for India denoting a need to prepare adequate counter measures.
China aspires to achieve the top edge in this sphere surpassing these players. Russia on the other hand after annexation of Crimea in 2014 has been using it his capabilities to change and influence the perception of vast segment. So seeing these all trends in these campaign this is most important to keep in mind that information warfare has not only relations with military spheres but it has a vast relation with other forms of national security and thus china seems to actively nurturing its pace in this field.
India had been confronting under the web of huge national and integration challenges with vast demographical dividends. It is designed to exploit national vulnerabilities across the political, military, economic, social and in informational areas. As a state, if anyone introspects in how to use this form of warfare then the aim should be in exploiting the critical vulnerabilities of the adversaries at all levels.
Unfortunately, India has been a very reluctant player in this field in comparison to China and other nations. As Pakistan and china are constantly trying to create an environment of fear and paranoia against India by playing a psychological game so it’s new time for India to utilize the IW capabilities.
To conclude this non-kinetic form of warfare will be in the center of battle in the future. When a combination of conventional and non-kinetic are integrated then it creates a position of advantage against the dividends of a society and nation. And as India continues to face huge internal and external threats in the field of cyber and space especially then the need of an hour is to build a vast critical infrastructure in order to cope and safeguard its own digital systems.
(Om Ranjan is pursuing his B.A in English Honors from Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi. The views expressed are personal and does not reflect the views of C3S)