The war in Ukraine as well as recent developments within the region have thrown up a host of issue which directly impinge on the security and well being of nation states. Amongst India’s close neighbours, Sri Lanka is going through a period of political unrest caused by the economy going through a tailspin, attributable in part to some poor government decisions, the Covid-19 pandemic and also the loans taken from China for unnecessary projects at very high rates of interest. Pakistan too is undergoing a period of great political uncertainty, which can be attributed to poor handling of the economy, an excessively high rate of population growth and the perceived tilt of the Imran Khan government towards China.
Many observers of the current situation in Pakistan believe that China has a vice like grip on the Pakistan polity as it has placed Pakistan in a debt trap, through funding of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (C-PEC). If Pakistan fails to pay the debt it owes China, it may well compromise its sovereign interests in Gilgit-Baltistan and Gwadar. Myanmar is undergoing yet another spell of military rule, Nepal remains politically unstable, the Taliban have a vicious government in Afghanistan and in Bangladesh, radical elements are trying to undo the social cohesion which has so painstakingly been brought about by the Sheikh Hasina government. In all this turmoil, India appears to be a veritable ocean of peace!
Far off from India’s shores, the war in Ukraine has set off alarm bells of quite different nature. The sanctions imposed by the US and the West on Russia includes a host of economic measures designed to punish the Russian economy. Today, both the economy as well as information is being weaponised, which portends grave consequences for the future. With Digital India gathering momentum and with even the poorest sections of Indian society getting on to digital payment systems, the impact of sanctions on India could be crippling, if we do not achieve self sufficiency in multiple fields.
The last few years has seen India being hit hard by information warfare, inspired from overseas but propagated by the Left-Islamist combine within India, in a bid to destabilise the government. This started soon after the Modi led NDA government first assumed office in 2014, and was seen in attempts made in 2014, to show the Christian community in India under threat. This was followed by a vicious campaign to depict India as an intolerant country, which found great resonance in premier universities such as JNU. The protests against the CAA and more recently the protest by farmers were part of the same eco-system. In the changing world order, external agencies will be working overtime to destabilise and discredit the government. While dealing with such agencies is not too difficult, the more onerous task will be to handle dissidence from within.
In future, India could be a target for hostile powers, using sanctions as a weapon of choice. This could prove to be destabilising for the country if we do not achieve self sufficient in multiple fields. Cyber capability is one such field to ensure that all our vulnerable civil assets are protected. These include payment systems, rail, road and air communication systems, all communications in the financial sector, et al. We also need to ensure that we have local ownership of the entire e-commerce procurement and supply chains, to prevent them from getting disrupted by sanctions imposed by hostile powers. Atmanirbhar Bharat is no longer just a goal to be achieved but a national imperative for India’s emergence as a leading state in the comity of nations.