AI without Cyber Resilience in South Asia

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Artificial intelligence is becoming one of the defining technologies of the 21st century. Today AI is being deployed in health care systems, financial trading, translation and transportation, and military technology massively. The technology and terminology “artificial intelligence” is not the product of the 21st century, rather the term was coined in 1956 at Dartmouth’s summer workshop organized to develop thinking machines. However, there is no single definition of this technology, this is quite difficult to define. According to a definition proposed by European Commission, artificial intelligence (AI) is a system with the capability to achieve a given goal by acting physically or digitally, after perceiving its environment by interpreting the structured or unstructured data, reasoning the knowledge derived from this data and deciding the best actions to perform the given goal. This definition identifies the capability to perceive, interpret and reason as the pre-requisites for AI-enabled systems. Due to its capability of intelligence monitoring, reconnaissance, target recognition, communication and navigation, automated command and control, and precision strikes, AI enables systems are becoming necessary for militaries. Artificial intelligence is not a stand-alone technology, rather enhances or adds new features when integrated into military systems. AI’s integration into military systems is a double edge sword. On the one hand, it is improving the existing systems by providing precision, intelligence, detection, and decision-making tools, on the other hand, it is increasing risks and vulnerabilities for the existing structures and systems.

Most of the research related to AI in military systems is associated with their contribution as catalysts in offensive or defensive operations. However, one less discussed fact in this regard is the security of artificial intelligence-based systems. Today artificial intelligence is used in missile defense and reconnaissance, which enhances target recognition, image and pattern recognition, and trajectory calculation. Moreover, it can also assist in the analysis of damage effects. Enhanced intelligence and trajectory calculations will assist states in more guided and precision strikes. All these technological developments reveal that artificial intelligence is enabling states to gather massive information and process it to achieve desired objectives. However, artificial intelligence does not exist in a vacuum. It is essential to recognize that all the data amassed, processed, and utilized with the help of artificial intelligence needs protection and security. Moreover, besides data, machines and their algorithms also need to work effectively to avoid manipulation and breach.  This brings us to the point that though artificial intelligence is a necessity for the national security of states and is largely adopted worldwide, this technology also needs to be secured against cyber-attacks. To protect such systems, states must build resilience against them. AI systems must be protected from cyber-attacks and the whole infrastructure of the state must have cyber resilience.

With increased dependence on information technology and rapid digitization of systems, the term cyber security gained momentum. However, these systems not only need to be securitized but they should be resilient against the threats. Cyber resilience is the ability of the system to operate during an attack and achieve a minimum level of operationalization while responding to an attack. It also enables the system to develop a backup system that works in case of attack. Cyber resilience is a step forward from cyber security because it not only ensures the security of the system but also identifies the threats to it and then proposes a system that could work amidst such attacks. Most military systems are resilient against kinetic attacks because resilience and survivability go hand in hand. But, with modernizations in the military, state’s cyber networks which are working on artificial intelligence must be resilient against kinetic and non-kinetic attacks.

Today states are in a race to use AI in their military systems to achieve maximum military gains and deny their adversary the same. The situation is not so different in South Asia where two nuclear rivals of the region are paving the way toward the use of artificial intelligence for military purposes. India has developed the Center for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (CAIR) in DRDO, intending to develop AI within the military systems to improve geographical information system technology, decision support systems, and object detection and mapping. Moreover, companies like Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) are already in the process of developing and incorporating AI into military equipment. This includes an AI-enabled patrol robot developed by BEL built in the hope to be utilized by the Indian military. Moreover, in 2019 India’s Gen. Bipin Rawat said adversary in the north is spending a huge amount on AI and cyber warfare, so we cannot be left behind in this race. It is mostly projected by the Indian policymakers and many international scholars that India is facing adversaries on two fronts (China-Pakistan), to justify India’s military expenditure and modernization. However, recently, events like the Galway Valley clash exposed India’s military capabilities mostly against Pakistan. Moreover, South Asia’s security dynamics are heavily characterized by the action-reaction chain. To avoid security dilemmas vis-à-vis India, Pakistan would also invest in AI. At the moment Pakistan has also started working towards achieving expertise in AI. In 2019 President of Pakistan launched PIAIC with a focus on the development of skills in AI to strengthen the economy and defense systems. Moreover, there are centers like the National Center of Artificial Intelligence and the Department of Robotics and Intelligent Machine Learning in NUST, which are working to improve AI-based knowledge in Pakistan. Besides that Pakistan recently launched a program named “Digital Pakistan” to increase access and connectivity, digital infrastructure, e-government, digital skilling and training and introduce innovation and entrepreneurship.

Therefore, as the process of digitalization is increasing in the Pakistan-India equation, it is also becoming very important that both states should develop resilience in their cyber systems so that the technologies could give them an advantage rather than become a security peril for them.

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