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The new frontiers of political and strategic technology: The future technological singularity

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To put it in a generic but understandable way, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a technologically mediated ability (but always present in a digital computer or in a computer-controlled robot) to carry out activities usually typical of an intelligent being.

In this case, the intelligence is the traditional one of the definitions born in the twentieth century in the framework  of empirical psychology: logical ability, in the sense of abstraction from the characteristics that science considers “secondary” and hence subjective; understanding, that is the thought correctly imitating the future behavior of the human and non-human movements and reactions present in the external world; emotional knowledge; design, in the absence of an image already present in the external world; finally creativity and problem solving.

As the  American pragmatist Charles S. Peirce used to say, understanding or thinking is a form of “talking to oneself” and of symbolically representing – not necessarily reflecting – the inferences that can be found in the external reality.

In Peirce’s mind, all these inferences were probabilistic.

According to the Austrian physicist and philosopher, Ernst Mach, science is instead the process replacing experience with representations and images through which “it becomes easier to handle and manage the experience itself”.

This means that in the transition phase between the nineteenth and the twentieth century, science was no longer interested in the “essence of reality” -interpreted in a reductionist sense  – but it created a new reality on its own, easier and more adapted to the human mind and to societal needs.

It was Ernst Mach who applied the criteria for analyzing the data which developed between the nineteenth and the twentieth century in human sciences to physical and chemical science.

In essence, at the end of its epistemological program, the Artificial Intelligence (AI) can reach a complete simulation of the human brain and, in some respects, even outperforms it in its results. Possibly even in the forms of information processing-understanding and hence transformation of what – in a long-standing Western philosophical tradition – is called  “reality”.

Hence a “Hyperman”, technologically reminding us of the “Beyond Man” or “Overman” (the Übermenschnever to be translated as “Superman”) theorized by Nietzsche, since the homo sapiens sapiens is evolutionarily unstable. Again to use Nietzsche’s words, what we call “man” is a “a rope, tied between beast and overman – a rope over an abyss”.

However, let us revert to military technology.

The IA technology includes not so much the replacement of man with the thinking machine – an idea  probably harboured in some people’s minds – but rather more specific techniques: the Virtual Agents; the processing of Natural Language; the platforms for the “self-learning” machines; robotics; the processing of human and computer perception; neural networks.

Incidentally, the Intelligent Virtual Agents (IVAs) are the programs providing pre-established interactions with human beings, especially on the Web.The Natural Language Processing deals with the computer treatment of natural human and non-human language.

The platforms for the “self-learning” machines use the recognition of external patterns and the computational theory of learning – hence they create algorithms that can learn new rules from a wide set of data and make predictions starting from the already pre-defined patterns and from the data sets that grow indefinitely.

In the current phase of this complex “research project” – just to use the terminology of the epistemologist ImreLakatos – we have reached the following levels: a) we can  build systems and robots that are already faster, more capable and more powerful than us. The AI systems are expected to reach our same analytical (and creative) power within 2045. The level of singularity, as this point of noreturn is currently defined.

Moreover, b) we will have robots permanently taking care of us, interacting with our body and reading our emotions. But this already happens. Google Home, the Jibo control center and the Roomba “social” robot are already among us.

Furthermore, c) also on the basis of a huge and always updatable universe of data, we can predict the great global phenomena at natural, cosmological, medical-epidemiological and human-statistical levels or even at economic level.

Wewill soon be able to predict also the human behavior in larger populations -often with great accuracy.

On top of it, d) we will have such exoskeletons or extracorporeal extensions as to improve – as never before – our physical and even intellectual/perceptive abilities.

We will shortly become super-human – not in Nietzsche’smeaning of the concept – but rather in the sense of the most popular science fiction comics of the 1960s. Before technological singularity we will record a merger between AI apparata and our mind-body whole.

In the near future, there will be a stable connection between the human brain and computer networks, as already planned and designed by Neuralink or by the Californian company Kernel, which even study the implantation of AI interfaces in the human cerebral cortex.

Finally, e) the end of work.

However, what will the exchange value of the items processed by the AI machines be, considering that our society is based on Smith’s labor theory of value?

How can we set prices, including the non-monetary ones, if there are no values – the classic theme of political economy and also of Marx, his main critic?

In all likelihood, at strategic and military levels we will have 4 types of applicative Artificial Intelligence: the Artificial Narrow Intelligence (ANI), sometimes also referred to as “weak AI”, is an intelligence working within a very limited context, onlyfor specific and routine functions, that cannot take on tasks beyond its field. It is a specific type of AI in which a technology outperforms humans quantitatively in some very narrowly defined task. It focuses on a single subset of cognitive abilities and advances in that spectrum..

Then there is the Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), also known as strong AI, that can successfully perform any intellectual task that a human being can. Finally we achieve  the Super Artificial  Intelligence (ASI), when AI becomes much smarter that the best human brain in practically every field, including scientific creativity, general wisdom and social skills.

Hence, in principle, the application of Artificial Intelligence in Defense operations and programming will generally regard a) real military organizations; b) the network of political and intelligence organizations developing around real military structures; c) the whole  governmental organization, which is a defense structure in itself.

Finally it will regard the whole system of Defense and Security within society, i.e. the whole network of sensors and AI networks that can be used for protectinginfrastructure, the territory, as well as economic, strategic and intellectual resources.

Currently the major powers’ research focuses on level 1, namely the Artificial Narrow Intelligence – the level at which AI outperforms the human mind and perceptions only in some sectors and only quantitatively.

Nowadays ANI is used to apply Artificial Intelligence mainly to the battlefield and the integration of forces, intelligence and tactical decision-making within “industrial age” technologies.

An evolution which is still included in and confined to the US Revolution in Military Affairs(RMA) that had its true baptism of fire during the two Iraqi wars.

It was at the core of the doctrinal and technological transformations of the Chinese, Arab, NATO and, later, Russian Armed Forces.

It is worth recalling that the RMA was based on the central idea of the Network-Centric Warfare, which sought to translate an information advantage, enabled in part by information technology, into a competitive advantage through the robust networking of well-informed geographically dispersed forces.  Therefore the network and the integration between weapons and sectoral and regional commands – hence the de factomerging between the political-military decision-making and the activities on the ground.

This means that there will be a two-fold approach in  modern and future warfare: high-technology strikes, which determines the strategic superiority on the field, as well as the whole new low or medium-intensity panoply of political warfare – which operates with the apparent opposite of the Special Forces, on the one hand, and of parallel, civil and rank-and file organizations on the other, including armed citizens, mass operations and operations of influence, the use of local criminal and non-criminal organizations, and the stable “black”, “white” and “grey” propaganda.

Future wars will be more widespread and characterized by swarming, because many regional and local actors, including non-State ones, can afford  attack and defense panoplies on the basis of Artificial Intelligence – systems  more connected to the link between propaganda and politics and less Clausewitz-style: the separation between warfare and non-warfare will disappear in the future and the armed clash will not be “the continuation of politics by other means” – as maintained by the Prussian general and military theorist – but, if anything, there will be a continuum between armed action and political and economic-social operations.

With new and extraordinarily relevant legal issues: who is responsible for an AI or cyberattack? Can we rely on probabilistic analysis of enemy operations or will there be a “cyber or robotic declaration of war”?

Moreover, AI is a way of rethinking, reformulating and reducing military spending, with smarter and more flexible technologies and better cost effectiveness. Hence we will witness the gradual end of the oligopolistic market of technological and military acquisitions – typical of a traditional industrial world – and the emergence of some sort of market economy, open to even the smallest states, in the old political-military establishment that, as early as the 1950s, Eisenhower accused of directing the Western countries’ foreign policies.

In the market of strategic acquisitions there will be specific room for commercial algorithms which, however, can be applied also to the military universe. Nevertheless,  in what we have called the “third level” of AI, that is the integration between government and strategic operations, we will have to deal with algorithms that will rationalize bureaucracy and the decision-making process, both at governmental and  operational levels.

This will happen also for what we have defined as the Fourth Level, i.e. the dimension of the ecosystem between politics, technology and the rest of society, which is not normally interested in military operations.

As already noted with reference to China and to the Russian Federation, here AI will deal with social prevention (which is the new way of avoiding the post-Clausewitz mix of  clash and political representation) and with social resilience, namely the stability of “civil societies”and their critical infrastructure. Not to mention counter-propaganda.

It was Napoleon-style Blitzkrieg.

However, in the future, it will no longer be sustainable, economically and politically, given the military forces’ economic and social limits we are already experiencing today. Hence the link between the AI-Defense Fourth Level and the previous ones will be between Deep Learning, new wide databases, as well as high-speed and highly performing computers.

Within the framework of the NATO countries’ current defense doctrines, the main AI military actors have paid the utmost attention to information and computer technologies that bring together – quickly and easily – the “effectors”, i.e. those or the things that perform the operations with human or artificial “sensors” – the so-called Network Enabled Capabilities, in the NATO jargon.

Nevertheless, how do the old and new superpowers respond to the challenge of military Artificial Intelligence?

China – the country that best stands up to the USA in this field –  established the National Laboratory for Deep Learning, which has been operational since February 2017.

Moreover the Chinese company Baidu and the other Chinese web giants have been entrusted with the task of working with the State in sectors such as automatic visual recognition; recognition based on a vast evolutionary database; voice recognition; the new automated models of Man/Machine interaction; intellectual property in the sphere of deep learning.

In this field everything is based on supercomputers, which China can currently manufacture on its own, after the USA  blocked the sale of the Intel Xeon processors, up to even producing their autonomous superprocessor, present in the advanced computer Sunway Taihu Light, which is so far  the fastest computer in the world, at least in the field of complex computer networks.

Furthermore China’s 13th Five-Year Plan envisages an expansion of the national AI market to the tune of 100 billion renmimbi, with two specific plans: the China BrainPlan, that is AI military-civilian planning for unmanned networks, as well as cybersecurity and complex society’s governance.

The other level, the second one planned by China, is the use of Artificial Intelligence only for military and strategic superiority.

This is President Xi Jinping’s policy line of the progressive “military-civilian integration”.

The Chinese Armed Forces have also established anUnmanned Systems and Systems of Systems Science and Technology Domain Expert Group, in addition to working hard in the sector of visual recognition for the Navy –  above all for operations in “disputed waters” – as well as dealing specifically with the command and control of large-range Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).

Missiles are another important sector in China’s AI military policy – above all to respond to the recently-deployed US Long Range Anti-Ship Missile program, which has replacedHarpoon.

In China all this is included in the broader theory of Remote Warfare, which is based on drones and advanced  missile networks.

This is currently at the basis of many Chinese strategic choices. Hence – at any distance – hitting targets which are a greater danger for China, as well as for the Forces on the ground and for the politics-warfare link – a danger that cannot be replaced or postponed in response.

The Chinese Armed Forces are and will always be used  “to defend the Party”.

Moreover, Israel was the first country- even before the USA – to use fully automated robots and unmanned military vehicles in warfare, besides buildingHarpy, the anti-radiation UAV searching, targeting and destroying enemy radar centers without human control and supervision.

In the near future, the Israeli decision-makers plan to deploy “mixed” battalions, with robots and human soldiers operating together.

Moreover the Israeli Armed Forces have already put in place the system called Automatic Decision Making, employing robotics, AI and deep learning and operating with almost instantaneous speed, which is strategically unavoidable for Israel.

Aeronautics Ltd, an IDF contractor, has already built a series of UAVs having complex Artificial Intelligence algorithms.

IA systems to support political decision-making, as well as techniques for the immediate transfer of data from one computer platform to another, and finally AI technologies for the camouflage of networks and human and non-human operatorsare already operating in Israel.

In the Russian Federation, military Artificial Intelligence has a limit, that is the availability of ultra-fast processors for supercomputers – a problem which, however, is being solved.

Currently Russia is mainly interested in developing the  Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGVs), in addition to the robotic platforms for the integration of the various aspects of the battlefield.

In January 2017, President Vladimir Putin ordered the creation of “autonomous robotic complexes” – just to use the Russian government’s terminology – but for military use only.

With the creation of the National Center for the Development of Robotic Technologies and Basic Robotic Components, Russia is implementing a careful policy of acquisition and independent research in the field of military Artificial Intelligence. A network that already operates for acquisitions throughout the worldmarket.

This is an organization which has been operating since 2015-2016.

Russia has already developed unmanned helicopters and the use of remotely-controlled robot-terminators which target alone – again without human supervision – the targets they have autonomously selected by severity of threat and response to actions on the field.

Finally, after the good results reached with its unmanned operating platforms in Syria, Russia is interested in developing AI systems for border protection, with a series of neural networks automatically referring and reporting to cameras, seismic and human sensors, as well as UAV networks, for an immediate response to threats.

For the USA, the first country to be permanently committed to military AI, the next developments will be in the following areas: a) autonomous machines for deep learning, capable of collecting and processing data and  making choices, especially in the framework of the current “hybrid warfare”; b) the development of AI strategic doctrines in the field of man-machine collaboration, with the final implementation of the Centaur network; c) the creation of joint man-machine combat units; d) web-connected semi-automatic weapons to survive  cyberattacks.

All these systems will be obviously online and interconnected.

Certainly, nowadays, all the major operators of strategic Artificial Intelligence need to use these networks for the crypto-preservation of real intelligence data, as well as for their classification and also for conflict prevention which, as China maintains, must be “predictive, preventive, participatory and shared between political and military decision makers”.

Moreover, the goals of the new AI military networks include “social resilience”, i.e. the stability of the non-military, namely of the members of the “civil society”, faced with any unexpected shocks and actions of “covertor hybrid warfare”.

What about Italy? It has no real document on National Security to be updated every year or for major crises.

This is already a severe limitation. The “White Papers” already drafted in Italy, however, are always political and government documents. They are often drafted by “external” people not involved in the Defense mechanism, or possibly, by the General Staff and they are more focused on the rather vague spending plans and policy lines, as well as on the Grand Strategy, if any, than on the strictly geopolitical and military doctrine.

Little focus on National Interest and much unrequested loyalty to goals set by others.

Furthermore, at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, there is a group of experts working on the Italian foreign policy challenges until 2020.

Hence, apart from the specific activities of the intelligence services, in Italy there is no doctrine or project for internal use of the AI technologies, also in view of stimulating our currently very scarce industries in the IT-AI sector.

Another great deficiency – among the many shortcomings of our defense criteria – and also scarce integration with the other NATO and Allied Armed Forces.

Advisory Board Co-chair Honoris Causa Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is an eminent Italian economist and businessman. He holds prestigious academic distinctions and national orders. Mr. Valori has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities such as Peking University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yeshiva University in New York. He currently chairs “International World Group”, he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group. In 1992 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d’Honneur de la République Francaise, with this motivation: “A man who can see across borders to understand the world” and in 2002 he received the title “Honorable” of the Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France. “

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An Underdeveloped Discipline: Open-Source Intelligence and How It Can Better Assist the U.S. Intelligence Community

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Open-Source Intelligence (OSINT) is defined by noted intelligence specialists Mark Lowenthal and Robert M. Clark as being, “information that is publicly available to anyone through legal means, including request, observation, or purchase, that is subsequently acquired, vetted, and analyzed in order to fulfill an intelligence requirement”. The U.S. Naval War College further defines OSINT as coming from, “print or electronic form including radio, television, newspapers, journals, the internet, and videos, graphics, and drawings”. Basically, OSINT is the collection of information from a variety of public sources, including social media profiles and accounts, television broadcasts, and internet searches.

Historically, OSINT has been utilized by the U.S. since the 1940s, when the United States created the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) which had the sole goal (until the 1990s) of, “primarily monitoring and translating foreign-press sources,” and contributing significantly during the dissolution of the Soviet Union. It was also during this time that the FBIS transformed itself from a purely interpretation agency into one that could adequately utilize the advances made by, “personal computing, large-capacity digital storage, capable search engines, and broadband communication networks”. In 2005, the FBIS was placed under the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) and renamed the Open Source Center, with control being given to the CIA.

OSINT compliments the other intelligence disciplines very well. Due to OSINT’s ability to be more in touch with public data (as opposed to information that is more gleaned from interrogations, interviews with defectors or captured enemies or from clandestine wiretaps and electronic intrusions), it allows policymakers and intelligence analysts the ability to see the wider picture of the information gleaned. In Lowenthal’s own book, he mentions how policymakers (including the Assistant Secretary of Defense and one of the former Directors of National Intelligence (DNI)) enjoyed looking at OSINT first and using it as a “starting point… [to fill] the outer edges of the jigsaw puzzle”.

Given the 21stcentury and the public’s increased reliance upon technology, there are also times when information can only be gleaned from open source intelligence methods. Because “Terrorist movements rely essentially on the use of open sources… to recruit and provide virtual training and conduct their operations using encryption techniques… OSINT can be valuable [in] providing fast coordination among officials at all levels without clearances”. Intelligence agencies could be able to outright avoid or, at a minimum, be able to prepare a defense or place forces and units on high alert for an imminent attack.

In a King’s College-London research paper discussing OSINT’s potential for the 21stcentury, the author notes, “OSINT sharing among intelligence services, non-government organizations and international organizations could shape timely and comprehensive responses [to international crises or regime changes in rogue states like Darfur or Burma],” as well as providing further information on a country’s new government or personnel in power. This has been exemplified best during the rise of Kim Jong-Un in North Korea and during the 2011 Arab Spring and 2010 earthquake that rocked Haiti. However, this does not mean that OSINT is a superior discipline than other forms such as SIGINT and HUMINT, as they are subject to limitations as well. According to the Federation of American Scientists, “Open source intelligence does have limitations. Often articles in military or scientific journals represent a theoretical or desired capability rather than an actual capability. Censorship may also limit the publication of key data needed to arrive at a full understanding of an adversary’s actions, or the press may be used as part of a conscious deception effort”.

There is also a limit to the effectiveness of OSINT within the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC), not because it is technically limited, but limited by the desire of the IC to see OSINT as a full-fledged discipline. Robert Ashley and Neil Wiley, the former Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and a former Principal Executive within the ODNI respectively, covered this in a July article for DefenseOne, stating “…the production of OSINT is not regarded as a unique intelligence discipline but as research incident to all-source analysis or as a media production service… OSINT, on the other hand, remains a distributed activity that functions more like a collection of cottage industries. While OSINT has pockets of excellence, intelligence community OSINT production is largely initiative based, minimally integrated, and has little in the way of common guidance, standards, and tradecraft… The intelligence community must make OSINT a true intelligence discipline on par with the traditional functional disciplines, replete with leadership and authority that enables the OSINT enterprise to govern itself and establish a brand that instills faith and trust in open source information”. This apprehensiveness by the IC to OSINT capabilities has been well documented by other journalists.

Some contributors, including one writing for The Hill, has commented that “the use of artificial intelligence and rapid data analytics can mitigate these risks by tipping expert analysts on changes in key information, enabling the rapid identification of apparent “outliers” and pattern anomalies. Such human-machine teaming exploits the strengths of both and offers a path to understanding and even protocols for how trusted open-source intelligence can be created by employing traditional tradecraft of verifying and validating sourcing prior to making the intelligence insights available for broad consumption”. Many knowledgeable and experienced persons within the Intelligence Community, either coming from the uniformed intelligence services or civilian foreign intelligence agencies, recognize the need for better OSINT capabilities as a whole and have also suggested ways in which potential security risks or flaws can be avoided in making this discipline an even more effective piece of the intelligence gathering framework.

OSINT is incredibly beneficial for gathering information that cannot always be gathered through more commonly thought of espionage methods (e.g., HUMINT, SIGINT). The discipline allows for information on previously unknown players or new and developing events to become known and allows policymakers to be briefed more competently on a topic as well as providing analysts and operators a preliminary understanding of the region, the culture, the politics, and current nature of a developing or changing state. However, the greatest hurdle in making use of OSINT is in changing the culture and the way in which the discipline is currently seen by the U.S. Intelligence Community. This remains the biggest struggle in effectively coordinating and utilizing the intelligence discipline within various national security organizations.

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Online Radicalization in India

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Radicalization, is a gradual process of developing extremist beliefs, emotions, and behaviours at individual, group or mass public levels. Besides varied groups, it enjoys patronization, covertly and even overtly from some states. To elicit change in behavior, beliefs, ideology, and willingness, from the target-group, even employment of violent means is justified. Despite recording a declination in terror casualties, the 2019 edition of the Global Terrorism Index claims an increase in the number of terrorism-affected countries. With internet assuming a pivotal role in simplifying and revolutionizing the communication network and process, the change in peoples’ lives is evident. Notably, out of EU’s 84 %, daily internet using population, 81%, access it from home (Eurostat, 2012, RAND Paper pg xi). It signifies important changes in society and extremists elements, being its integral part, internet’ role, as a tool of radicalization, cannot be gainsaid. Following disruption of physical and geographical barriers, the radicalized groups are using the advancement in digital technology:  to propagate their ideologies; solicit funding; collecting informations; planning/coordinating terror attacks; establishing inter/intra-group communication-networks; recruitment, training and media propaganda to attain global attention.  

               Indian Context

In recent times, India has witnessed an exponential growth in radicalization-linked Incidents, which apparently belies the official figures of approximate 80-100 cases. The radicalization threat to India is not only from homegrown groups but from cross-border groups of Pakistan and Afghanistan as well as global groups like IS. Significantly, Indian radicalized groups are exploiting domestic grievances and their success to an extent, can mainly be attributed to support from Pakistani state, Jihadist groups from Pakistan and Bangladesh. The Gulf-employment boom for Indian Muslims has also facilitated radicalization, including online, of Indian Muslims. A close look at the modus operandi of these attacks reveals the involvement of local or ‘homegrown’ terrorists. AQIS formed (2016) ‘Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind’ in Kashmir with a media wing ‘al-Hurr’.

IS announced its foray into Kashmir in 2016 as part of its Khorasan branch. In December 2017 IS in its Telegram channel used hashtag ‘Wilayat Kashmir’ wherein Kashmiri militants stated their allegiance with IS. IS’ online English Magazine ‘Dabiq’ (Jan. 2016) claimed training of fighters in Bangladesh and Pakistan for attacks from western and Eastern borders into India.Though there are isolated cases of ISIS influence in India, the trend is on the rise. Presently, ISIS and its offshoots through online process are engaged in spreading bases in 12 Indian states. Apart from southern states like Telangana, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu — where the Iran and Syria-based terrorist outfit penetrated years ago — investigating agencies have found their links in states like Maharashtra, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Jammu and Kashmir as well. The Sunni jihadists’ group is now “most active” in these states across the country.

               Undermining Indian Threat

Significantly, undermining the radicalization issue, a section of intelligentsia citing lesser number of Indian Muslims joining al-Qaeda and Taliban in Afghanistan and Islamic State (IS) in Iraq, Syria and Middle East, argue that Indian Muslim community does not support radicalism-linked violence unlike regional/Muslim countries, including Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Maldives. They underscore the negligible number of Indian Muslims, outside J&K, who supports separatist movements. Additionally, al- Qaeda and IS who follows the ‘Salafi-Wahabi’ ideological movement, vehemently oppose ‘Hanafi school’ of Sunni Islam, followed by Indian Muslims. Moreover, Indian Muslims follows a moderate version even being followers of the Sunni Ahle-Hadeeth (the broader ideology from which Salafi-Wahhabi movement emanates). This doctrinal difference led to the failure of Wahhabi groups online propaganda.  

               Radicalisation Strategies/methods: Indian vs global players

India is already confronting the online jihadist radicalization of global jihadist organisations, including al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), formed in September 2014 and Islamic State (IS). However, several indigenous and regional groups such as Indian Mujahideen (IM), JeM, LeT, the Taliban and other online vernacular publications, including Pakistan’s Urdu newspaper ‘Al-Qalam’, also play their role in online radicalisation.

Indian jihadist groups use a variety of social media apps, best suited for their goals. Separatists and extremists in Kashmir, for coordination and communication, simply create WhatsApp groups and communicate the date, time and place for carrying out mass protests or stone pelting. Pakistan-based terror groups instead of online learning of Islam consider it mandatory that a Muslim radical follows a revered religious cleric. They select people manually to verify their background instead of online correspondence. Only after their induction, they communicate online with him. However, the IS, in the backdrop of recent defeats, unlike Kashmiri separatist groups and Pak-based jihadist mercenaries, runs its global movement entirely online through magazines and pamphlets. The al-Qaeda’s you tube channels ‘Ansar AQIS’ and ‘Al Firdaws’, once having over 25,000 subscriptions, are now banned. Its online magazines are Nawai Afghan and Statements are in Urdu, English, Arabic, Bangla and Tamil. Its blocked Twitter accounts, ‘Ansarul Islam’ and ‘Abna_ul_Islam_media’, had a following of over 1,300 while its Telegram accounts are believed to have over 500 members.

               Adoption of online platforms and technology

Initially, Kashmir based ‘Jaish-E-Mohammad’ (JeM) distributed audio cassettes of Masood Azhar’s speeches across India but it joined Internet platform during the year 2003–04 and started circulating downloadable materials through anonymous links and emails. Subsequently, it started its weekly e-newspaper, Al-Qalam, followed by a chat group on Yahoo. Importantly, following enhanced international pressure on Pak government after 26/11, to act against terrorist groups, JeM gradually shifted from mainstream online platform to social media sites, blogs and forums.   

 Indian Mujahideen’s splinter group ‘Ansar-ul-Tawhid’ the first officially affiliated terror group to the ISIS tried to maintain its presence on ‘Skype’, ‘WeChat’ and ‘JustPaste’. IS and its affiliates emerged as the most tech-savvy jihadist group. They took several measures to generate new accounts after repeated suspension of their accounts by governments.  An account called as ‘Baqiya Shoutout’ was one such measure. It stressed upon efforts to re-establish their network of followers through ‘reverse shout-out’ instead of opening a new account easily.

Pakistan-backed terrorist groups in India are increasingly becoming  technology savvy. For instance, LeT before carrying out terrorist attacks in 2008 in Mumbai, used Google Earth to understand the targeted locations.

IS members have been following strict security measures like keeping off their Global Positioning System (GPS) locations and use virtual private network (VPN),  to maintain anonymity. Earlier they were downloading Hola VPN or a similar programme from a mobile device or Web browser to select an Internet Protocol (IP) address for a country outside the US, and bypass email or phone verification.

Rise of radicalization in southern India

Southern states of India have witnessed a rise in  radicalization activities during the past 1-2 years. A substantial number of Diaspora in the Gulf countries belongs to Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Several Indian Muslims in Gulf countries have fallen prey to radicalization due to the ultra-conservative forms of Islam or their remittances have been misused to spread radical thoughts. One Shafi Armar@ Yusuf-al-Hindi from Karnataka emerged as the main online IS recruiter for India.  It is evident in the number of raids and arrests made in the region particularly after the Easter bomb attacks (April, 21, 2019) in Sri Lanka. The perpetrators were suspected to have been indoctrinated, radicalised and trained in the Tamil Nadu. Further probe revealed that the mastermind of the attacks, Zahran Hashim had travelled to India and maintained virtual links with radicalised youth in South India. Importantly, IS, while claiming responsibility for the attacks, issued statements not only in English and Arabic but also in South Indian languages viz. Malayalam and Tamil. It proved the existence of individuals fluent in South Indian languages in IS linked groups in the region. Similarly, AQIS’ affiliate in South India ‘Base Movement’ issued several threatening letters to media publications for insulting Islam.

IS is trying to recruit people from rural India by circulating the online material in vernacular languages. It is distributing material in numerous languages, including Malayalam and Tamil, which Al Qaeda were previously ignoring in favour of Urdu. IS-linked Keralite followers in their propaganda, cited radical pro-Hindutva, organisations such as the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak (RSS) and other right-wing Hindu organisations to motivate youth for joining the IS.  Similarly, Anti-Muslim incidents such as the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992 are still being used to fuel their propaganda. IS sympathisers also support the need to oppose Hindu Deities to gather support.

               Radicalization: Similarities/Distinctions in North and South

Despite few similarities, the radicalisation process in J&K is somewhat different from the states of Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Telangana and Gujarat. Both the regions have witnessed a planned radicalization process through Internet/social media for propagating extremist ideologies and subverting the vulnerable youth. Both the areas faced the hard-line Salafi/Wahhabi ideology, propagated by the extremist Islamic clerics and madrasas indulged in manipulating the religion of Islam. Hence, in this context it can be aptly claimed that terror activities in India have cooperation of elements from both the regions, despite their distinct means and objectives. Elements from both regions to an extent sympathise to the cause of bringing India under the Sharia Law. Hence, the possibility of cooperation in such elements cannot be ruled out particularly in facilitation of logistics, ammunitions and other requisite equipment.

It is pertinent to note that while radicalisation in Jammu and Kashmir is directly linked to the proxy-war, sponsored by the Pakistan state, the growth of radicalisation in West and South India owes its roots to the spread of IS ideology, promotion of Sharia rule and establishment of Caliphate. Precisely for this reason, while radicalised local Kashmiris unite to join Pakistan-backed terror groups to fight for ‘Azadi’ or other fabricated local issues, the locals in south rather remain isolated cases.

               Impact of Radicalisation

The impact of global jihad on radicalization is quite visible in West and South India. Majority of the radicalised people, arrested in West and South India, were in fact proceeding to to join IS in Syria and Iraq. It included the group of 22 people from a Kerala’s family, who travelled (June 2016) to Afghanistan via Iran. There obvious motivation was to migrate from Dar-ul-Harb (house of war) to Dar-ul-Islam (house of peace/Islam/Deen).

While comparing the ground impact of radicalization in terms of number of cases of local militants in J&K as well as IS sympathisers in West and South India, it becomes clear that radicalisation was spread more in J&K, owing to Pak-sponsored logistical and financial support. Significantly, despite hosting the third largest Muslim population, the number of Indian sympathisers to terror outfits, particularly in West and South India is very small as compared to the western countries. Main reasons attributed to this, include – religious and cultural pluralism; traditionally practice of moderate Islamic belief-systems; progressive educational and economic standards; and equal socio-economic and political safeguards for the Indian Muslims in the Indian Constitution.

               Challenges Ahead

Apart from varied challenges, including Pak-sponsored anti-India activities, regional, local and political challenges, media wings of global jihadi outfits continue to pose further challenges to Indian security agencies. While IS through its media wing, ‘Al Isabah’ has been circulating (through social media sites) Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s speeches and videos after translating them into Urdu, Hindi, and Tamil for Indian youth (Rajkumar 2015), AQIS too have been using its media wing for the very purpose through its offshoots in India.  Some of the challenges, inter alia include –

Islam/Cleric Factor Clerics continue to play a crucial role in influencing the minds of Muslim youth by exploiting the religion of Islam. A majority of 127 arrested IS sympathizers from across India recently revealed that they were following speeches of controversial Indian preacher Zakir Naik of Islamic Research Foundation (IRF). Zakir has taken refuge in Malaysia because of warrants against him by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) for alleged money laundering and inciting extremism through hate speeches. A Perpetrator of Dhaka bomb blasts in July 2016 that killed several people confessed that he was influenced by Naik’s messages. Earlier, IRF had organised ‘peace conferences’ in Mumbai between 2007 and 2011 in which Zakir attempted to convert people and incite terrorist acts. Thus, clerics and preachers who sbverts the Muslim minds towards extremism, remain a challenge for India.

Propaganda Machinery – The online uploading of young militant photographs, flaunting Kalashnikov rifles became the popular means of declaration of youth intent against government forces. Their narrative of “us versus them” narrative is clearly communicated, creating groundswell of support for terrorism.In its second edition (March 2020) of its propaganda magazine ‘Sawt al-Hind’ (Voice of Hind/India) IS, citing an old propaganda message from a deceased (2018) Kashmiri IS terrorist, Abu Hamza al-Kashmiri @ Abdul Rehman, called upon Taliban apostates and fighters to defect to IS.  In the first edition (Feb. 2020) the magazine, eulogized Huzaifa al-Bakistani (killed in 2019), asking Indian Muslims to rally to IS in the name of Islam in the aftermath of the 2020 Delhi riots. Meanwhile, a Muslim couple arrested by Delhi Police for inciting anti-CAA (Citizenship Amendment) Bill protests, were found very active on social media. They would call Indian Muslims to unite against the Indian government against the CAA legislation. During 2017 Kashmir unrest, National Investigation Agency (NIA) identified 79 WhatsApp groups (with administrators based in Pakistan), having 6,386 phone numbers, to crowd source boys for stone pelting. Of these, around 1,000 numbers were found active in Pakistan and Gulf nations and the remaining 5,386 numbers were found active in Kashmir Valley.

Deep fakes/Fake news – Another challenge for India is spread of misinformation and disinformation through deep fakes by Pakistan. Usage of deepfakes, in manipulating the speeches of local political leaders to spread hate among the youth and society was done to large extent.

India’s Counter Measures

To prevent youth straying towards extremism, India’s Ministry of Home Affairs has established a Counter-Terrorism and Counter-Radicalisation Division (CT-CR) to help states, security agencies and communities.

Various states, including Kerala, Maharashtra and Telangana have set up their own de-radicalisation programmes.  While in Maharashtra family and community plays an important role, in Kerala clerics cleanse the poisoned  minds of youth with a new narrative. A holistic programme for community outreach including healthcare, clergies and financial stability is being employed by the Indian armed forces. An operation in Kerala named Kerala state police’ ‘Operation Pigeon’ succeeded in thwarting radicalization of 350 youths to the propaganda of organizations such as Islamic State, Indian Mujahideen (IM) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) via social media monitoring. In Telangana, outreach programs have been developed by local officers like Rema Rajeshwari to fight the menace of fake news in around 400 villages of the state.

In Kashmir the government resorts to internet curfews to control the e-jihad. While state-owned BNSL network, used by the administration and security forces, remains operational 3G and 4G networks and social media apps remain suspended during internet curfews.

Prognosis

India certainly needs a strong national counter- Radicalisation policy which would factor in a range of factors than jobs, poverty or education because radicalization in fact has affected even well educated, rich and prosperous families. Instead of focusing on IS returnees from abroad, the policy must take care of those who never travelled abroad but still remain a potential threat due to their vulnerability to radicalization.

Of course, India would be better served if deep fakes/fake news and online propaganda is effectively countered digitally as well as through social awakening measures and on ground action by the government agencies. It is imperative that the major stakeholders i.e. government, educational institutions, civil society organisations, media and intellectuals play a pro-active role in pushing their narrative amongst youth and society. The focus should apparently be on prevention rather than controlling the radicalisation narrative of the vested interests.

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Is Deterrence in Cyberspace Possible?

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Soon after the Internet was founded, half of the world’s population (16 million) in 1996 had been connected to Internet data traffic. Gradually, the Internet began to grow and with more users, it contributed to the 4 trillion global economies in 2016 (Nye, 2016). Today, high-speed Internet, cutting-edge technologies and gadgets, and increasing cross-border Internet data traffic are considered an element of globalization. Deterrence seems traditional and obsolete strategy, but the developed countries rely on cyberspace domains to remain in the global digitization. No matter how advanced they are, there still exist vulnerabilities. There are modern problems in the modern world. Such reliance on the Internet also threatens to blow up the dynamics of international insecurity. To understand and explore the topic it is a must for one to understand what cyberspace and deterrence are? According to Oxford dictionary;

 “Cyberspace is the internet considered as an imaginary space without a physical location in which communication over computer networks takes place (OXFORD University Press)”

For readers to understand the term ‘deterrence’; Collins dictionary has best explained it as;

“Deterrence is the prevention of something, especially war or crime, by having something such as weapons or punishment to use as a threat e.g. Nuclear Weapons (Deterrence Definition and Meaning | Collins English Dictionary).

The purpose of referring to the definition is to make it easy to discern and distinguish between deterrence in International Relations (IR) and International Cyber Security (ICS). Deterrence in cyberspace is different and difficult than that of during the Cold War. The topic of deterrence was important during Cold Wat for both politicians and academia. The context in both dimensions (IR and ICS) is similar and aims to prevent from happening something. Cyberspace deterrence refers to preventing crime and I completely agree with the fact that deterrence is possible in Cyberspace. Fischer (2019) quotes the study of (Quinlan, 2004) that there is no state that can be undeterrable.

To begin with, cyber threats are looming in different sectors inclusive of espionage, disruption of the democratic process and sabotaging the political arena, and war. Whereas international law is still unclear about these sectors as to which category they fall in. I would validate my affirmation (that deterrence is possible in Cyberspace) with the given network attacks listed by Pentagon (Fung, 2013). Millions of cyber-attacks are reported on a daily basis. The Pentagon reported 10 million cyberspace intrusions, most of which are disruptive, costly, and annoying. The level of severity rises to such a critical level that it is considered a threat to national security, so professional strategic assistance is needed to deal with it[1]. The past events show a perpetual threat that has the ability to interrupt societies, economies, and government functioning.

The cyberspace attacks were administered and portrayal of deterrence had been publicized as follows (Fung, 2013);

  1. The internet service was in a continuous disruption for several weeks after a dispute with Russia in 2007.
  2. Georgian defense communications were interrupted in 2008 after the Russian invasion of Georgia.   
  3. More than 1000 centrifuges in Iran were destroyed via the STUXNET virus in 2010. The attacks were attributed to Israel and the United States of America.
  4. In response to STUXNET virus attacks, Iran also launched a retaliatory attack on U.S financial institutions in 2012 and 2013.
  5. Similarly in 2012, some 30,000 computers had been destroyed with a virus called SHAMOON in Saudi Aramco Corporation. Iran was held responsible for these attacks.
  6. North Korea was accused of penetrating South Korean data and machines in 2014, thus interrupting their networks in 2014.
  7. A hybrid war was reported between Russia and Ukraine in 2015 that left Ukraine without electricity for almost six hours.
  8. Most critical scandal, which is still in the limelight call WikiLeaks released distressing and humiliating emails by Russian Intelligence at the time of the U.S presidential campaigns in 2016.

While such incidents may be considered a failure of deterrence, this does not mean that deterrence is impossible. Every system has some flaws that are exposed at some point. At this point, in some cases a relatively low level of deterrence was used to threaten national security, however, the attacks were quite minor in fulfilling the theme affecting national security. Nye (2016:51) in his study talks about the audience whose attribution could facilitate deterrence. (I). intelligence agencies should make sure highest safeguarding against escalation by third parties, and governments can also be certain and count on intelligence agencies’ sources. (II). the deterring party should not be taken easy, as I stated (above) about the lingering loopholes and flaws in the systems, hence, governments shall not perceive the intelligence forsaken.  (III). lastly, it is a political matter whether international and domestic audiences need to be persuaded or not, and what chunk of information should be disclosed.

The mechanisms which are used and helpful against cyberspace adversary actions are as follows (Fischer, 2019);

  1. Deterrence by denial means, the actions by the adversary are denied that they failed to succeed in their goals and objectives. It is more like retaliating a cyberattack.
  2. Threat of punishment offers severe outcomes in form of penalties and inflicting high costs on the attacker that would outweigh the anticipated benefits if the attack takes place.
  3. Deterrence by Entanglement has the features and works on a principle of shared, interconnected, and dependent vulnerabilities. The purpose of entanglement is to embolden and reassure the behavior as a responsible state with mutual interests.
  4. Normative taboos function with strong values and norms, wherein the reputation of an aggressor is at stake besides having a soft image in the eyes of the international community (this phenomenon includes rational factors because hard power is used against the weaker state). The deterrence of the international system works even without having any credible resilience.

Apparently, the mechanisms of deterrence are also effective in cyber realms. These realms are self-explaining the comprehensive understanding and the possibility of deterrence in cyberspace. The four mechanisms (denial, punishment, entanglement, and normative taboos) are also feasible to apply deterrence in the cyber world. Factually, of many security strategies, cyber deterrence by using four domains could be a versatile possibility. Conclusively, as far as the world is advancing in technological innovations, cyberspace intrusions would not stop alike the topic of deterrence in the digital world.


[1] An updated list of cyberspace intrusions from 2003 till 2021 is available at (Center for Strategic and International Studies, 2021).

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