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Mains Practice Questions

  • Q. “Cyber is often touted as the fifth dimension of warfare — in addition to land, sea, air and space. However, if cyber warfares become a norm, India will have to prepare more for bilateral conflicts that are based on cyber warfare”. Comment.

    19 Jan, 2022 GS Paper 3 Science & Technology


    • Start with a brief introduction about cyber and cyber warfare as an important dimension of warfare in modern times.
    • Discuss the issues of cyber warfare and threats for India.
    • Discuss the way forward to make India resistant to cyber warfare.


    Cyber is often touted as the fifth dimension of warfare — in addition to land, sea, air and space. It increasingly appears that the cyber warfare is going to become a regular part of the arsenal of nations

    As far as India is concerned, it ranks 3rd in terms of the highest number of internet users in the world after the USA and China, but still, its cybersecurity architecture is in a nascent approach.

    The changing military doctrines, all across the world, favour the need to raise cyber commands reflecting a shift in strategies along with building deterrence in cyberspace.

    Arguments Against Cyber Warfares

    • Threat to International Security: Cyber warfare attacks on military infrastructure, government and private communications systems, and financial markets pose a rapidly growing but little understood threat to international security and could become a decisive weapon in future conflicts among States.
    • More Number of Countries to Engage in Wars: Once cybertechnology enters as an important variable in nations’ defence policies, the size of a country will cease to matter.
      • Even smaller countries empowered by cybertechnology will be equal to the larger countries like the US, Russia, India or China, in their capability to cause unacceptable damage.
    • Lowering Threshold of Entry into War: Weapons in the 21st century will merely mean a cyber button on the desk of the nation’s military/ the leader of the government.
      • Geographical land, population, or GDP will be irrelevant in war-making capacity or deterrence.
    • More Frequent Conflicts: With cyber warfares becoming a norm, each nation will have to be more prepared for bilateral conflicts that are based on cyber warfare rather than in multilateral acts of conventional war or rely on military blocs for mobilisation.

    Threats to India:

    • Past Experiences: India has been the victim of cyber attacks multiple times in the past.
      • In 2009, a suspected cyber espionage network dubbed GhostNet was found to be targeting, amongst others, the Tibetan government in exile in India, and many Indian embassies.
      • The power outage in Mumbai in 2020 is also suspected to be the result of an attack by a Chinese state-sponsored group.
    • Threats from China: The real danger to India lies in targeted cyber attacks coming from adversarial nation states.
      • Countries like China can bring immense assets to bear in carrying out sophisticated cyber attacks.
    • Lack of Cyberspace Infrastructure: India is one of the few countries which still does not have a dedicated cyber component in its military.
      • The setting up of a Defence Cyber Agency was announced but came out only as a typical half-hearted step characterising India’s lack of strategic planning process.

    Way Forward

    • Bringing Changes to the National Security Policy:
      • Clarifying the Objectives: The National Security Policy in the 21st century shall define what assets are required to be defended and the identity of opponents who seek to overawe the people of a target nation by unfamiliar moves to cause disorientation of people.
      • The strategy required for the new national security policy will be to anticipate the enemies in many dimensions and by demonstrative but limited pre-emptive strikes by developing a strategy of deterrence of the enemy.
    • Increasing the funding: The government should carve out a separate budget for cybersecurity. Creating a central body of cyber warriors to counter state-sponsored hackers.
    • Defence, Deterrence and Exploitation: These are the three main components of any national strategy to counter cyber threats.
      • Critical cyber infrastructure must be defended and individual ministries and private companies must also put procedures in place to honestly report breaches.
      • Deterrence in cyberspace is a hugely complex issue. Nuclear deterrence is successful because there is clarity on the capability of adversaries but cyber warfare lacks any such clarity.
      • Exploiting cyberspace to achieve national security objectives. The preparation for this will have to start with the Indian military gathering intelligence, evaluating targets and preparing the specific tools for cyber attacks.

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