The India-China conflict is one of cyberspace and technology, not just a military battle

While most Indians perceive the conflict with China only in military terms, Beijing achieved its aim without a single shot being fired. We have not yet fully wrapped our heads around the other three battlegrounds of China in the 21st century.

Firstly, over a billion Indians who have been mired in ennui, did not bother to refrain from purchasing goods 'Made in China'. Hence, China knows very well that its grip over legitimately manufactured goods and global rip-offs will not be affected by the call of war. If the people of China do not care why would the rest of the world bother? Even as I look around me the TV, the mobile phone, the laptop, the coffee mug and toaster share a common genesis.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

Secondly, we are refusing to recognise the potential of cyberspace. Recently, there has been the talk of dormant viruses being installed in computers and sold to military setups. The computers work perfectly well until the viruses are activated after which the machines go awry and malfunction. The possibility is not just in the realm of science fiction and one cannot choose to ignore the reality of the hazard. One of the threats that cannot be overlooked is the potential of manufacturing or assembling a remote control for the machines.

In an episode of Madame Secretary, a popular TV drama, the US is able to control Israeli strikes on Iran by shutting down the systems in the fighter jet hardware it had sold to Tel Aviv. It is all very convincing.

There is no reason why their high technology Trojan horses would not work. You would not even be aware of the virus that might be snugly hibernating in your infrastructure. In the same sphere of knowledge, is the power to hack and cause disruptions to transportation, urban mobility and mass transit, public amenities like electricity and water and traffic control which could add to the pre-war confusion. If the lights go off what war can you fight? It might sound cinematic but it is real.

India plans big purchases for its armed forces and with an annual budget of $53 billion, the country is the fifth largest weapon shopper. It has to be extremely careful of what it buys and from whom because, without a screening in combat, we could be a sitting duck for sure. This is specifically valid for computer systems that command the weaponry, be it ships, tanks or aircraft.

In the last two months of hostility, China has probably used fifth-century war strategist Sun Tzu’s tenth chapter on terrain as a guide. China's aggressive posture is accentuated by playing with the Indian psyche. This cat and mouse strategy is designed to mess with our minds and we must pay back and not be a pacifist. The psychology, after all, is a terrain.

China has observed India's strengths, assessed its political and military Indian reactions, felt the mood of the northeast and used the threat of aggression to attain a large amount of ground intelligence, as well as, nudge India at its will to see where its breaking point is. These litmus tests have been conducted with a sense of purpose. Whether right or wrong, it has attained these objectives without any shot being fired and China probably feels it can bide its time because even if the dragon goes back into the cave, it has infinite patience and can belch fire another day or simply make little forays to wear us down.

The neighbouring country has tested the waters seriously after a gap of 55 years and there was an intent to disrupt the status quo. Whether it is the road in Bhutan’s Doka La or a new mess in Kashmir, New Delhi and the rest of the country has to step up the vigil and upgrade its attention to the new fields of battle.

The Chinese are not backing off, they are simply achieving what they had set as targets and we would be dangerously wrong to celebrate…instead of pondering what China has gained from this dry run.


Updated Date: Aug 07, 2017 06:18 AM

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