India is taking some steps to counter China’s capability to launch devastating cyber-attacks through risk mitigation strategies, building firewalls and recovery systems as well as integrating cybersecurity resources of the Army, Navy and IAF, said General Bipin Rawat on Wednesday.
The chief of defence staff also indicated that India too is working on “offensive” cyber capabilities but acknowledged it’s way behind China in this domain of warfare as of now.
“The biggest military differential lies in the field of cyber. We know China is capable of launching cyber-attacks on us and that it can disrupt a large number of our systems,” said Gen Rawat, speaking on “Shaping the armed forces to meet likely current and future challenges” at the Vivekananda International Foundation here.
“What we are trying to do is to ensure cyber-defence. We have, therefore, created a tri-Service Cyber Defence Agency, with each service also having its own cyber agency, to ensure that even if we come under a cyber-attack, the downtime and effect does not last long,” he said.
The capability to come through a cyber-attack relatively unscathed is being addressed “in a very serious manner” within the country, even as India is also looking at “some support” from western countries to overcome this deficiency, he said.
Asked about “offensive” cyber capabilities, Gen Rawat said, “We will rather keep silent on that. But be rest assured, we are somewhere there. We would not like to talk about it.”
Experts say India needs a full-fledged Cyber Command for full-spectrum warfare, like the US and some other countries, because China has assiduously developed cyber-weapons to degrade or destroy an adversary’s military assets and strategic networks as well as energy, banking, transport and communication grids.
While India has a strong information technology sector in the civilian arena, cyber-warfare capabilities have been ignored for far too long. The cyber domain has fast emerged as the fifth dimension of warfare after land, sea, air and space.
Gen Rawat, on his part, said integrating civil and military technological efforts was the way forward towards self-reliance. India should evolve “a whole of nation approach” towards national security by inducting new technologies and integrating resources within the armed forces as well as with the civilian infrastructure outside.
The “contracting envelope” of the defence budget makes it imperative to create dual-use infrastructure through civil-military fusion. India, for instance, must examine the feasibility of integrating civil and military airports to strengthen aviation safety, airspace management and combat support capabilities, he said.
Similarly, civilian satellites for remote sensing, reconnaissance, communications and navigation must also have built-in military encryptions. Construction of communication towers and electricity infrastructure as well as rail, roads, bridges and tunnels in border states must also be done with specifications that facilitate utilization by the armed forces as well, he said.