As I have explained before, geopolitics can have a wide array of meanings and concepts. However, what about when we seek to apply geopolitics in the real world?
How can we depart from academic theory and perception, that geopolitics is nothing but a discursive practice, promoted and advocated by an elite vis-à-vis popular culture? My answer revolves within two concepts: risk and conflict. In my view—and the fundamental argument of this brief article—is that when it comes to geopolitical research, it must be both investigated and contextualized, in a more in-depth qualitative view instead of your good ol’ country risks reports and probability-type of analysis—on which to be fairly honest, they are nothing but a cluster of quantified opinions based on superficial ‘risk’ scores, which they don’t say much to an investor concerning the specific risks his industry or commercial operations can succumb in a country of interest. (And I do not mean this in an obnoxious know-it-all way, but rather, in the most simple, common-sense way, since any business group/investor would likely ask you: What do these credit scores tell me about my specific industry-related risks? Hence, the purpose of my argument.)
So, why should we think of geopolitical research, in terms of more qualitative-oriented methods, if we were to thoroughly research a geopolitical ‘risk’ or ‘conflict’? For starters, geopolitics deals with systems as a whole—be they political, economic, ecological, industrial, and so on. For instance, say we were to analyze the geopolitical situation of the Central American North Triangle (Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras). We would have to first select the most vulnerable and particular system that characterizes this geographic space. To what international system does the Central American North Triangle affect the most? And in terms of what? Who ‘affects’ and what are the ‘effects’? For starters, and replying to the first question, the Central American North Triangle’s criminal organization system would be the most critical system that would be inextricably linked to the American security system. It would be in terms of drug smuggling, money laundering, cartels, gangs and hitmen (e.g. hitmen jumping back and forth from the U.S.-Mexico border), corrupt government and business elites, criminal parallel government structures (e.g. ministries, military, police task forces), to name some notable examples, that participate within this system, while operating and creating their own sub-systems.
Generally speaking, in Central America, it is the organized crime system that influences the behavior and decision-making of the American embassies in Guatemala City, San Salvador and Tegucigalpa. And to reply to my self-imposed questions, the most particular ‘effect’ on the American security system would be thousands of illegal immigrants that flee this particular system, consequently, affecting the American security and borders system as a whole. As a result, what are the independent and dependent variables of this particular geopolitical system? The causal-chain? See where I’m heading? In order to analyze a complete geopolitical system not only you require time and patience, but a thorough contextualization and understanding of geographical, historical and sociocultural dynamics of the ‘place’. The probabilistic nature of political risk (e.g. country risk) can only be reduced to that of macroeconomic analysis. But, what if, imagine, you know an X investor that wants to invest in the textile industry, in the Escuintla Department (province) of Guatemala? How would you be able to determine the geopolitical—and particular—risks affecting that investment?
Applied geopolitics, overall, boils down into two concepts: ‘affect’ and ‘effect’. As I have mentioned on my personal blog, an X variable has to be ‘ affected ‘ by a ‘Y’ event in order to cause a massive systematic or local ‘effect’ (e.g. the creation of ISIS via the Syrian war and its massive effect on the Middle East regional geopolitics, or the 2008 economic meltdown, which, unfortunately, Europe is still suffering the consequences). Thereby by understanding the concepts of both ‘affect’ and ‘effect’, we can jump into the next concept: macro versus micro risks.
Continuing with our example of an X investor looking forward to invest in a newly constructed textile factory, in the Escuintla Department, Guatemala (and yet wanting to know the possible geopolitical risks of his investment), we must start with the most important first step: see the map. By looking at the map, I know that Escuintla Department is a hot, humid flatland located between two ecoregions: the highlands and the pacific lowlands; I know that it doesn’t have any substantial navigable river system, therefore, most of the communities are tied to the main highway system between Guatemala city and the Port of San Jose; I know that because of the ocean currents, it rains heavily in the south, however, in the north, (adjoining the Pacaya and Agua volcanoes, between the Palin canyon, and because of the prevailing winds from the north), the weather evolves into a more moderate, less humid, highland weather; I know that because of this mixture between tropical and humid and temperate and highland, Escuintla has a suitable climate for raising cattle and harvesting cash crops, such as sugar cane, bananas, coffee, cardamom, lemon tea, in the southern part of Escuintla, and to its north, nearing and entering the Guatemalan highlands, it is suitable for maize, beans and vegetables; I know that because of the main transportation corridor, it is a heavily industrialized zone; I know that because of the majority of mestizo population, there isn’t a lack of cultural and language homogeneity with that of the Guatemalan economic core; but I also know that it is an imperative transit zone between the sea and the highlands and farther into the hinterland, which makes it prone to drug trafficking; and I also know that it is an imperative transportation corridor between El Salvador and Mexico, where many of the human contraband structures operate. Escuintla is a geopoliticized space. But also is part of an important geographical sub-field of the major organized crime geopolitical system of the North Triangle.
This is by simply looking at the map. Now, what are the possible risk triggers, exposures, events and conflicts that could occur within this specific space, and the actors that could affect the potential investment? Well, this is where you are going to have to leave the office and go into the field—where then you will have to combine a set of both qualitative and quantitative tools in order to determine the micro-risks.
When it comes to the science of researching geopolitical micro-risk, by simply sitting in an office desk and by trying to ascribe numbers and values and probabilities, to determine the ‘probability’ of the risk of investing, is to a certain degree, groundless and—no offense—a waste of time; put simply, the investor will not know what are the potential micro-risks affecting his operating environment and, most importantly, how to manage them—and this is where conflict management comes. If an X conflict with a Y community over Z resource were to occur, how resilient and prepared would the textile factory staff be? At what scale and level are the risks and uncertainties and effects of investing in that space? This is when, in turn, your sociocultural and historical understanding comes to place.
Lastly, don’t get me wrong: there are certain types of quantitative elements that are a must when it comes to geopolitical risk; however, these tools should only serve you as part of a preliminary research and for generalization purposes—i.e. country risks and economic indicators of the country and region, and your own probability model. Yet, it is a profound qualitative-driven research (focus groups, HUMINT, interviews, short-term ethnography, participant observation, and much more) that will help your geopolitical analysis stand out before any other.
Russia points to evidence exposing Kiev’s intentions to use biological weapons
Documents uncovered in the special military operation in Ukraine corroborate the evidence exposing the Kiev regime’s intentions to use biological weapons, Head of the Russian Defense Ministry’s Research Center for Chemical and Biological Threats Dmitry Poklonsky said in the run-up to the Ninth Review Conference of the Biological Weapons Convention. “In some cases, the study focused on infectious disease agents that had never been registered on Ukrainian soil,” he said – informs TASS.
“We have obtained reports of investigations into a collection of microorganisms that indicate the accumulation of pathogens in unsubstantiated amounts. There are documents confirming the intentions to acquire unmanned delivery vehicles that could be used for employing biological weapons. Considering the non-transparent nature of this work and the absence of any substantiated responses from the United States and Ukraine, we, of course, regard the documents obtained as proof that Article 1.4 of the Convention was violated,” the defense official said.
The documents obtained in the special military operation in Ukraine, including reports by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency of the US Department of Defense, corroborate that the nature of work carried out there frequently ran counter to pressing healthcare problems, he stressed.
“In some cases, the study focused on infectious disease agents that had never been registered on Ukrainian soil,” Poklonsky pointed out.
Neither Washington nor Kiev deny the fact of the existence of biological labs in Ukraine bankrolled by the Pentagon, he pointed out.
“It was confirmed by the 2005 agreement between the US Department of Defense and the Ukrainian Health Ministry. Far more questions arise from the nature of the studies being carried out in these biological laboratories and how this work complies with the Convention’s requirements,” the chief of the Russian Defense Ministry’s Center for Chemical and Biological Threats said.
Psychological Warfare (PSYOPS)- The Pandora’s Box of Security Issues
The world, functioning in its numerous forms and dimensions, is primarily perceived and misperceived by individuals through the faculty of the human Mind. A factor that creates a significant difference vis-a-vis human beings and other species is the complex cognitive ability possessed by humans. The mind is fundamentally an expression of thoughts circulated and imbibed through various means of communication. Deconstructing it further, thoughts portray the information consumed by an individual. In other words, this complex combination of the human mind, thoughts, and information shapes and reshapes our psychology.
Psychological war, in this context, can be perceived as a strategically orchestrated arrangement of information derived from variables like history, polity, religion, culture, literature, and philosophy broadly to channel propaganda with the prime objective of influencing and manipulating the behavior of the enemy to further one own interest. The term Psychological war is believed to be coined by a British Historian and military analyst, J.F.C Fuller, in 1920. One can observe that psychological war as an instrument of strategic importance is not of recent origin. Instead, the evolution of this tactic can be traced long back in history since the emergence of the State. It is considered one of the fundamental tools of statecraft and quite often has been put into the application as an instrument of state policy. Drawing a logical parallel, it can be advocated that psychological war has a close resemblance with the ancient notion of the allegory of the cave when applied in the present context.
Relevance of Psychological War
Napoleon Bonaparte once said “There are two powers in the world, the sword and the mind. In the long run, the sword is always beaten by the mind.” With the gradual progress of human intelligentsia, the world is and will be shaped and reshaped through the use of technology. The hyperconnected nature of a modern globalized world broadly portrays the image of a collective human consciousness deeply engrossed in the overwhelming nature of technology that reverberates with every emerging aspect of human life. When viewed from the prism of the State as a governing body in the international forum, technology will be the emerging axis of geopolitics since no state and its citizen can exist in silos devoid of the influence of other states. This is primarily due to the free flow of data. In this context, due to the free flow of data, the power of propaganda as a significant dimension of psychological war would prove to be an effective instrument used by the State to further its national interest.
In this contextual framework, the role of conscious manufacturing of narratives under the larger ambit of the idea of psychological war must be given due consideration. In his famous book,The Ultimate Goal: A Former R&AW Chief Deconstructs How Nations and Intelligence Agency Construct Narratives, Vikram Sood unfolds the idea of how narratives are created, propagated, sustained, and refined in domestic countries and abroad to further the national interest. He emphasizes not only the power of information but also the power of disinformation to de-track and mislead the collective consciousness of the nation. Therefore, it is of critical significance for a nation to enhance its understanding of psychological war, considering it a major security issue.
The cost and the expense of war are also major concerns for the State. In this regard, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval establishes the viewpoint that wars are gradually becoming ineffective in achieving political and military objectives and that they are also highly expensive and are gradually becoming unaffordable. He further puts forward the idea of the 4th generation warfare where the operational target of the objective would be civil society. A fair understanding of the 4th generation warfare is of critical importance due to the fact that the modus operandi to target civil society would primarily be through the perpetual use of psychological war. The cost of psychological war, when compared with other forms of war, is abysmally low and also highly effective in manipulating the behaviour of the State. The cost-effectiveness helps it be more sustainable, which can be continued for an extended period of time.
Materialisation of Psychological War
Psychological war is applied by many States as an instrument of state policy. China, in this regard, can be considered a prominent player that has materialized this idea. In the strategic book on statecraft, The Art Of War, Sun Tzu states that “All warfare is based on deception.” China has consciously tried to bridge the gap between the theory and practice of psychological war. The Dhoklam issue in 2017 substantiates how the Chinese government used psychological war as an instrument of state policy to further its national interest.
The hostile approach of Pakistan towards India is not of recent origin. Instead, it is a phenomenon that can be traced back in history during the early germination of the idea of Pakistan when the Muslin League was formed in 1906. After the materialization of this idea by a painful partition of India in 1947, Kashmir became the bone of contention right after Pakistan’s inception as a nation-state. Pakistan, over the years, has become cognizant of the conventional asymmetry between the two nations. Therefore, it has operationalized the path of psychological war in the Kashmir region with a more pinpointed approach of using Twitter as an operational instrument to create misperceptions at a low cost to achieve its objectives.
Psychological War and the Indian Perspective
Taking a momentary glance at the historical evolution of India as a civilizational State, it can be rightly stated that understanding the nature of the mind has been a perpetual theme in the philosophical construct of India. The use of psychological war is not a new phenomenon. The references to it can be prominently found in Indian mythology. In this regard, the epic story of The Mahabharatha is a prominent example.
In one of the instances, Krishna applied this idea of psychological war by disclosing a fact to Karna, which hitherto was kept secret and hidden from him. Krishna, just before the war, unfolded the fact to Karna that he is the eldest son of Kunti, his father is the Sun God, and the Pandavas his brothers. This very fact and the timing of the disclosure of this fact put Karna in a deep psychological trauma that depletes his mental strength. It was at this moment that Krishna offered Karna to join the battle from the side of Pandavas. A similar instance of psychological war used by India was found during The Bangladesh liberation war.
In the context of psychological war, Arthashstra is also a relevant text. It mentions the art of Kutayuddha. In Sanskrit, the word Kuta implies the application of deception, the creation of misperception, and misleading the enemy state; Yudh means war. Kautilya is a staunch advocate of establishing a network of espionage to initiate intelligence and counterintelligence measures as a major security initiative for a state. Therefore, it can be rightly perceived that India has a history of psychological war, which it has implemented to maintain security and stability.
Taking an analogical perspective, if the mechanism of psychological war is like a gun, then information is the potential bullets that are fired from it to target the enemy. The flow of Information can be considered the most important factor that makes psychological war lethal, precise, and effective. Therefore, there exists an urgent need for the establishment of an ‘Information Operations Command’ to tackle the issue of psychological war that is rapidly maturing and enhancing in its nature and methodology, fusing with the 5th generation warfare.
Another area of critical importance in this regard is the pressing need for a ‘National Security Doctrine.’ A national security doctrine is primarily a broad vision of a nation in the domain of its security from an inclusive perspective. Strong inter-agency coordination and refined analysis of security issues are needed.
Psychological war, as a rapidly evolving tool of statecraft in the security domain, acts as a linchpin vis-a-vis the 4th and 5th generation warfare where civil society and citizens are targeted with a perfect blend of technology and information. This makes it a war that doesn’t have a start or an end date. It is fought every minute, and progress can be achieved, even though at a minuscule level, but on a daily basis. Therefore, India as a major player in international politics with two hostile neighbors on its eastern and western border, must hold into perspective the scope, significance, and emerging dynamics of psychological war to keep herself abreast with other states at the international level on the security front.
Growing India Israel Relations: A Threat to Sovereignty of Gulf States
India has developed remarkable ties with the Gulf nations, particularly the GCC, over the past few decades. The significant trade between GCC nations and India and Israel are the main cause. This gradualist approach and efforts on part of India is to include Israel in a broader Middle East policy. Under the Namenda Modi administration, since 2017 Israel is “special and normal” because India has avoided the negative repercussions and no longer have fears opened relations with the Jewish state.
However, the point of concern is that India and Israel’s growing ties must not result in a coalition against Muslims. Modi and Netanyahu have many good reasons to rejoice over their thawing ties. But the gulf countries must discredit them if they use that proximity to advance a common narrative of extreme nationalism, exclusion, and labeling Muslims as the enemy.
Since October 25th, 2022, news reports have been making the rounds in the media revealing India’s involvement in global terrorism. Eight former Indian Navy officers have recently been detained in Qatar on suspicion of espionage and terrorism supported by the Indian government. These spy-officers were arrested in August 2022 for their involvement in international terrorism, espionage, and spying while working in Qatar for a private company and providing training and other services to the Qatari Emiri Navy.
Purnendu Tiwari, a retired (Naval commander) who received the Pravasi Samman 2019 (Highest Indian Award Abroad), was the brains behind the transfer of data from a major Gulf Muslim nation to Israel and India. It has been reported in the media that these Indian officers had access to sensitive information while working with Qatar’s enemies and the Defense, Security, and other government agencies. This is not the first time; India has been involved in espionage operations that violate foreign governments’ sovereignty, though it continues to deny it. International terrorism perpetrated by India has also frequently targeted Pakistan in the past. One such instance is the Kalbushan Yadav case.
The relationship between India and Israel is frequently described as a result of a natural convergence of ideologies between their respective ruling BJP and Liked parties. The BJP’s Hindutva and right-wing Zionism are two ethno-nationalist political movements that naturally discriminate against other races and religions because they are based on the majority populations they serve. In comparison to earlier, more liberal iterations of Hindutva and Zionism, both parties have become more racist. Therefore, by all means, India’s continued close strategic, economic, and security ties with Israel are more ideological than pragmatic.
India should make an effort to protect itself ideologically from the threat of Hindutva becoming the state’s guiding principle and a vehicle for incitement both domestically and abroad. Its exclusivist and discriminatory belief that India is only the property of Hindus is dangerous, especially at a time when Muslim minorities are increasingly being lynched in the name of cow vigilantism.
Today, the Gulf is an integral part of India’s ‘extended neighborhood’, both by way of geographical proximity and as an area of expanded interests and growing Indian influence. However, as a result of escalating anti-Muslim sentiment and the Hindutva movement’s flawed ideology, the BJP, government is arguably facing its most difficult diplomatic challenge in its nine years in office. A few years ago in 2020, Muslim nations were outraged by Nupur Sharma’s (a BJP official) insulting comments made during a TV debate about the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Islamic-majority nations voiced their opposition through tweets, official statements, and by summoning Indian diplomats. The BJP was compelled to take action against the party officials for posting a screenshot of offensive tweet.
Subsequently, Princess Hend al-Qassimi of the UAE then made a rare public statement in response to the rising Islamophobia among Indians, saying in a tweet, “I miss the peaceful India.” She did this after she specifically called out a tweet from an Indian resident of the UAE as being “openly racist and discriminatory,” reminding her followers that the penalty for hate speech could be a fine or even expulsion. These statements come after the Islamic world, including the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, urged India to act quickly to defend the rights of its Muslim minority and expressed concern about how the BJP treats Indian Muslims.
This suggests that the relationships New Delhi has worked so hard to build over the past few years drawing on the efforts of the previous administration is now seriously in jeopardy. India’s diplomatic achievement is starting to fall apart due to domestic developments that target its 200 million Muslims. The flagrant mistreatment of India’s Muslim communities now jeopardizes New Delhi’s carefully crafted Middle Eastern diplomacy, particularly with regard to the Gulf States.
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