Tag Archives | National Security

India needs a Guccifer of its own to play in the big leagues

Russian influence campaign against US 2016 elections shows the need for India to develop its own information warfare capabilities, not only to protect itself from foreign influence, but also to launch offensive operations to protect its national interests.

During the 2016 US Presidential election race, Wikileaks leaked over 19,000 emails and 800 attachments from the members of the US Democratic National Committee (DNC), the governing body of the US Democratic Party. The leaked information shed light into the some of the DNC member’s “corrupt and bias” nature of their actions acting against Bernie Sanders while in support of Hillary Clinton. Consequently, four of the DNC members, including the Chairperson, resigned their positions due to their involvement in the scandal.

The DNC leak was the smoking gun that significantly influenced public trust in the democratic process of the country, pushing away lot of educated voters from voting for Clinton.

The hacker Guccifer 2.0 was behind the data theft and penetration of the DNC email networks. The name Guccifer 2.0 is named after a legacy left by a Romanian hacker called Guccifer, currently serving sentence in US prison, who victimized numerous US politicians and celebrities with many scandals. The list included Colin Powell, George Bush’s sister, Sidney Blumenthal (the former aide to Bill Clinton), and members of Council on Foreign Relations.

Per the recent joint Intelligence report by CIA, FBI & NSA, leaking DNC’s sensitive information was part of the Russian sanctioned influence campaign to interfere with the 2016 US elections, and get Trump elected. In addition to the data leak, Russia supposedly deployed anti-Clinton propaganda via its international media channels and social media, mostly via RT news and Sputnik, to sway public opinion.

In other words, Russia launched a massive information war interfering with the US elections, and helped Trump, who is supposedly pro-Russia, get elected. This level of foreign interference in other countries’ governance systems isn’t something new. The whole of cold-war can be simplified as an information warfare between US and Russia to attain global dominance. The US itself has been behind many military coups and regimes changes post World War II, notably Iran, Guatemala, and Chile.

This shows the significance and the need of enhancing one’s information warfare capabilities. Not only to protect oneself from foreign bias and interventions, but also to be able to launch offensive operations that protect our national interests, economic development and international relationships.

Hence, as India emerges as a global economic power, we need to step up our information warfare capabilities. We need our own Guccifers that can launch sophisticated cyber operations and gather information on our counterparts. We need our own RTs and Sputniks that can bolster our image and neutralize foreign bias against us.

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A representation of the US policy on Pakistan

by Pranay Kotasthane (@pranaykotas)

We have long argued that Pakistan is not one geopolitical entity, but two: the putative state (represented currently by a civilian government), and the military—jihadi complex (MJC) that has captured the commanding heights of power. One way in which the MJC continues to thrive is to utilise Pakistan’s foreign relationships for self-perpetuation.

In this regard, Pakistan’s relationship with the US is of special significance. Hussain Haqqani’s Pakistan: between mosque and military (2005) postulated that securing finances from the US is one of three legs of Pakistan’s policy tripod, the other two being a pursuit of religious nationalism and near manic obsession for a confrontation with India.

The US fails to differentiate between the MJC and the putative Pakistani state. Jeffrey Goldberg’s article “The Obama Doctrine” for The Atlantic says this about Pakistan:

He [Obama] questioned why the US should avoid sending its forces into Pakistan to kill al-Qaeda leaders, and he privately questions why Pakistan, which he believes is a disastrously dysfunctional country, should be considered an ally of the US at all.

These lines succinctly sum up the world’s Pakistan conundrum. When the policy response of a two-term president of the world’s most powerful nation-state towards a “disastrously dysfunctional” ally is merely restricted to “private questioning”, we know that Pakistan continues to confound all international stakeholders. US Ambassador Richard Olson’s testimony to the US House Foreign Relations Committee further displays the confusion.

The former US Ambassador to India Robert Blackwill also conveyed his frustration over US policy towards Pakistan. He pins the blame on the lack of continuity between successive administrations on taking tough steps against Pakistan. His argument can be summarised in this flowchart:

A cyclical problem

US policy towards Pakistan: A cyclical problem

MJC’s relationship with the US continues to be a prime concern for India.

Pranay Kotasthane (@pranaykotas) is a Research Fellow at the Takshashila Institution.

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