Indian general likens social network warfare to ancient Kautilya classic
Rumors spread online from Pakistan have caused panic in northeast India, prompting a retired Indian general to liken the tactic to a political warfare tactic described in an ancient Hindu text.
The rumors build on social tensions caused by unchecked illegal immigration of Muslim Bangladeshi citizens into the region – and individuals in Pakistan are using social networking and texting to fan the flames.
In an August 21 Deccan Herald piece titled “Fight Propaganda War in North-East,” Maj Gen J S Kataria (Ret) writes that a social media propaganda campaign is fueling the troubles – a campaign he compares to a tactic described by the ancient Indian political warfare theoretician Kautilya in his classic, The Arthashastra. Recent rumors of more violence have caused panic in the Bangalore area. Indian authorities say that the rumors, spread by SMS and MMS, originated in Pakistan.
I raise this obscure issue because The Arthashastra is an assigned reading in my Political Warfare: Past, Present and Future course this fall at the Institute of World Politics. (See Lecture 2.) General Kataria’s argument shows that in India, the ancient book is still understood and relevant today. An excerpt from his opinion piece follows:
The current situation created through the doctored MMS/SMS and falsified images on Social Media are a leaf out of Kautilya’s Arthashastra wherein he said, “An arrow may or may not kill but an idea can even kill in a womb”. It is an innovative and economical application of technology in an attempt to destabilise India.
Information warfare is an American concept which came into fore during the 1991 Gulf War. It is a skilful use of information about the enemy aimed to demoralise the adversary’s populace and the defence forces through propaganda/rumour mongering; using information technology and social media as the force-multiplier.
India has its Information Warfare Centres in place but the moot question is that are we ready to take on such tasks with real-time speed and alacrity. If the answer is yes, then why our Intelligence Agencies have had no warning of the developments in Mumbai and the MMS/SMS creating panic situation. Obviously, we have not kept pace with time. Our intelligence agencies and the national security strategists have to generate capability for execution and countering Information Warfare, a twenty first century bomb with unprecedented destructive power, to safeguard the safety and security of our nation.