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Cyber Terrorism as a Global Internet Governance Challenge on ASEAN Regional Stability

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In the era of globalization like today, the development of technology and information is increasingly becoming. Along with the development of increasingly advanced technology, it provides benefits in the form of easy access for the community. However, the convenience and advancement of information technology also has a negative impact, especially in the misuse of technology. One example is the propaganda of terrorism, which is a negative act that can lead to the stability and security of a country, even more broadly on a global scale, to be threatened.

The phenomenon of cyber crime in the international world is currently a serious problem, especially one form of this branch of crime, namely cyber terrorism. Based on the definition of cyber terrorism or cybercrime itself is a term for the use of the internet as a way to commit acts of violence, intimidation, and the spread of ideology for the benefit of certain groups. Some experts in this matter still find it very difficult to distinguish the classification between cyber terrorism and cyber crime, but the term cyber terrorism itself sounds controversial and tends to lead to acts of spreading ideology by terrorist organizations through the internet (Dinniss, 2018).

Cyber Terrorism in ASEAN 

Apart from the previous explanation of cyber crime or cyber terrorism, this paper will specifically discuss one particular topic, namely regional cyber terrorism. In this case this paper will specifically discuss cyber terrorism or cyber crime in the Southeast Asia region, which in this case takes a case study in the regional organization of the region, namely the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN) in responding to the phenomenon of cyber terrorism. Regarding the topic raised, namely cyber terrorism, in first topic, it will discuss further the propaganda of terrorist groups on the internet which indirectly threatens the stability of regional security in Southeast Asia.

In connection with acts of terrorism, ASEAN itself has committed to eradicating all forms of terrorism including in this case cyber terrorism which can threaten the sovereignty of the country which was ratified through the ASEAN Convention On Counter Terrorism which as known by ASEAN member countries have agreed to work together to eradicate terrorism in the Southeast Asia region increase prevention and public awareness of the dangers of acts of terrorism, especially through propaganda on the internet (Ryacudu, 2018). An example in this case is ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) which uses social media twitter as a means to disseminate their ideologies considering that there are many social media users and this is also used by ISIS for recruiting new members (Misrawi, n.d.). What’s more, the thousands of accounts owned by ISIS are also targeting people in ASEAN where in 2016 a media in Australia reported about a mosque in Jakarta, Indonesia as a place for ISIS propaganda in Southeast Asia (Sari, n.d.).

The Threats on Regional Stability 

Apart from the form or threat in the form of terrorist organization propaganda on the internet, it seems that the phenomenon of cyber crime or cyber terrorism is not limited to this. There are various cyber crimes committed by certain groups, especially those that can threaten the sovereignty of the country. In the case of ASEAN countries themselves, the majority of them have experienced cyber crime attacks. Malaysia, for example, in 2012 experienced a loss of 1.1 million US dollars due to cyber attacks in the country. On the other hand, the Singapore government has also experienced cyber theft cases of 5000 documents from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Singapore, which was then leaked to the public and made the Singapore government face the threat of their sovereignty. Similar to the case in Singapore, Thailand has also experienced cases of cybercrime attacks on government websites, hundreds of malware attacks and phishing incidents that are detrimental and threatening the sovereignty of Thailand. Not forgetting, from previously mentioned, Indonesia, which is the country with the fastest growing internet users in the Southeast Asia region, also experienced the same thing (Manopo & Sari, 2015).

One of Indonesia’s major cyber attacks was the WannaCry ransomware attack in May 2017.The attack took the form of a ransom demand which attacked more than 100,000 computers in 150 countries. Besides that, in 2009 Indonesia also experienced an espionage attack from Australia which spied on the cell phone of the then president of Indonesia Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Judging from the previous case, of course this must be the cornerstone of ASEAN. Given that cyber crime or cyber terrorism is a transnational crime, the prevention must be done through cooperation. It is also undeniable that cyber laws in each country are also different, making cyber cooperation, especially in ASEAN, must be tightened (Chairil, n.d.).

What ASEAN Has Done?  

As previously known, there are so many cases of terrorism and cyber crime in Southeast Asia. These various crimes seem to have become a long history in their own right in the Southeast Asia region and become quite a homework assignment for ASEAN to tackle these transnational crimes. In this case, ASEAN as a Southeast Asian regional organization has also made efforts to prevent this by holding meetings between ASEAN member countries. These meetings are realized through the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Transnational Crime (AMMTC), ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting (ADMM), etc (Qalbi et al., 2020).

Furthermore, in one of the meetings, namely the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Transnational Crime (AMMTC) which is held every two years, it discusses terrorism, illegal drug trafficking, human trafficking, money laundering, and cyber crime, which is the topic of discussion. major in this paper. The program to address these issues is contained in the SOMTC Work Program to Implement the ASEAN Plan of Action to Combat Transnational Crime which is issued periodically every three years. In addition, ASEAN is also actively cooperating with ASEAN Dialogue Partners in efforts to eradicate transnational crime. This cooperation is contained in various joint declarations, memoranda of understanding (MoU), plans of action (PoA), and work plans that cover various cooperative initiatives and projects (ASEAN, n.d.).

Future Challenges of Cyber Security in ASEAN

Responding to the actions of cyber terrorists or cyber crime previously, in this case, according to INTERPOL’s ASEAN Cyber Threat Assessment 2021, it describes a trend that will exponentially emerge as a threat to regional stability in the Southeast Asia region. The report describes the important cooperation between the private sector, legal entities and intelligence agencies which is directly facilitated by INTERPOL.

The efforts made by INTERPOL’s ASEAN Cyber Crime Operations Desk (ASEAN Desk) which has received support from legal entities and private sector partners INTERPOL indicate that the threat of cyber crime in the Southeast Asia region includes the following matters. The business email compromise campaign costs the nation so much finances that it can lead to a financial deficit. Cyber Scams, Cyber criminals use false information, for example related to COVID-19 in global communications to deceive their victims. On the other hand, Ransomware which is a cyber crime that uses public facilities such as hospitals, state institutions to carry out ransomware attacks is increasing rapidly. In this case they believe that in this way they can weaken the security stability in a country with a medical crisis during a pandemic. And what is no less important is the black propaganda of terrorism groups that seeks to recruit new members through their ideologies that are disseminated through the internet which of course can threaten regional security stability and state sovereignty, and there are many more cases of cyber crime threats that are similar to the ASEAN region (INTERPOL Report Charts Top Cyberthreats in Southeast Asia, n.d.).

Conclusion 

It can be concluded from some of the topics previously mentioned that in this globalization era, threats to security are no longer limited to physical or traditional attacks but are broader than that. The threat is none other than non-traditional in which the threat can take various forms, one of which is a threat to technology and information. Along with the development, the ease of access to technology has also made crimes increase and even threatens the security of the country, namely cyber crime or cyber terrorism. Cyber ​​crime or cyber terrorism can take various forms, such as terrorist group propaganda, cyber scams, espionage, phishing, etc.

In this case, ASEAN as a regional organization also does not escape from these threats. They have made efforts in overcoming these cyber crime cases, one of which is by realizing the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Transnational Crime (AMMTC) which is held every two years and specifically to discuss transnational crimes including cyber crimes. Even so, cyber crimes in the Southeast Asia region can still be said to be quite a lot and in this case ASEAN must be more serious in dealing with it further. At the same time, cooperation between ASEAN member countries also needs to be increased to avoid non-traditional threats such as cyber crime in order to create a complete regional security stability.

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Russia points to evidence exposing Kiev’s intentions to use biological weapons

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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.

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Psychological Warfare (PSYOPS)- The Pandora’s Box of Security Issues

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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

China

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.

Pakistan

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.

Conclusion

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.

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Growing India Israel Relations: A Threat to Sovereignty of Gulf States

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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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