It is trendy to give generational classifications to warfare based on technological changes. However, warfare has always been hybrid and has constantly been shaped by that generation’s technological tools. Hybrid or Nth generation, warfare essentially reflects human pugnacity to maximise power at others’ cost. No country, especially a nuclear power like Pakistan, can afford to fight the latest generation of warfare with an old toolkit. That is why it is essential to debate the implications of recent evolution in military technologies, which have become multi-disciplinary and carry public policy consequences from diplomacy to economy and even right to privacy. For these reasons, rapid evolution and commercialization in innovative technologies and strategies are also called disruptive game-changers.
These game-changing technologies have intensified the global power competition, increased the response challenges and have made smaller states more vulnerable. Being a technological straggler, Pakistan should quickly adapt these dual-use Disruptive Innovation Technologies and Strategies. There should a sense of urgency in Islamabad because the doors to access these technologies shall close soon. The leading powers likely to use a concerted exclusion strategy exactly the way they did in the discriminatory nuclear non-proliferation regime. This generation of warfare cannot be fought through traditional military means. It requires an admix and ardent use of science diplomacy and military technologies.
Even big-powers have been compelled to upgrade and redesign their traditional policy frameworks owing to these ‘disruptive technologies and strategies.’ The new business and operating models are essential for maintaining competitive strategic advantage and efficiencies across economic, financial, commercial, defence and cyber sectors, including sustainable development regimes, increasing reliance on multiple fund-sources, revised infrastructure, skills upgrades and risk-return profiles.
Digital world has placed enormous amounts of data in user-hands. The scope of traditional diplomacy has evolved to Science, Technology & Innovation (ST&I). This has increased the depth of intra-disciplinary dependence. This implies new rules for negotiations, partnerships and thus an opportunity aside the challenges. If Pakistan intelligently embraces the change along the innovative strategies curve, it can emerge strong out of existing dismal economic and relative power outlay. What is the systemic technological mosaic? What is science diplomacy? How can these two be used to maximise Pakistan’s power in the so-called 5th Generation Warfare?
Science diplomacy has three components. One, ‘science in diplomacy’ implies exposing the policy makers to best information regarding science, technology and innovation. Two, ‘diplomacy of science’ denotes international science cooperation, cross-border collaborations to improve science or relationships. Three, ‘science for diplomacy’ improves inter-state relations and is evolutionary. It includes finance medicine, nanotechnology, alternative energy and space. Two cases in point can be geo-synchronous orbiting satellites and Fin-Tech, which affect Pakistan’s sovereignty as explained below.
Space Science in Diplomacy – even though Pakistan has recently launched two satellites, it largely remains dependent on third party contractors. Most communication and broadcast satellites are placed in a geostationary orbit band, about 36,000 km above the earth. Limitations on the number of satellites in that orbit necessitate international cooperation in space allocations that must inherently be driven by an understanding of constraints on proximity to optimize overall usage. This necessitates a technically complex marriage of space-technology experts along with the diplomacy gurus.
Space Diplomacy of Science – Is Pakistan living up to that participation yet? The space has tens of thousands of softball or larger objects floating in this band that are potentially harmful to operational satellites. The need to understand the physics and movement of these objectives is crucial to the sustainability of the ‘satellite belt’ and requires collaborative international network to advance that understanding.
Space Science for Diplomacy – Not all products and capabilities are available from a single vendor or country. Therefore, collaborations between countries on these issues, including transferring technologies shall minimize failure risks. This explains why India is collaborating with entire world in space technology and is not reliant on a single source or partner.
Likewise, Fin-Tech includes Blockchains and Distributed Ledger Technologies (DLT). The core concept underlying these is the “automation of trust” focused towards maximizing operating efficiencies while minimizing the intermediation i.e. roughly no brokers or bankers in between. The politics of such a “disruptive” concept is visible across today’s geo-economics. Pakistan has chosen to currently side with the idlers by banning usage of such technologies as well as its current test-forms like cryptocurrencies. Further, the insecurities of various lobbies across public and private sector players are being played in more colourful forms, all at the cost of national progress.
The use of innovative technologies in space and economy are just two forms of latest generation of warfare that Pakistan is afflicted with and does not even fully comprehend the extent of damage that has been done. This war has to be fought with right tools, knowledge and diplomacy sans brute military force. That is why Pakistan’s science diplomacy against so-called 5th generation warfare will have to be built on home-grown DLT infrastructure, encryption methods, end-use blockchain platforms, and a policy structure that protects national financial information going directly and indiscriminately in the hands of unwanted software and technology providers. Allowing foreign versions of these appealing but misunderstood software have placed Pakistan’s financial security in greatest jeopardy – it is like buying a lock from the enemy and leaving the keys with him.
Switching back to a global view, a consensus exists for at least twelve out of forty-plus disruptive technologies driving strategic changes through 2019 and beyond. A combination of these being termed as Intelligent Digital Mesh (IDM), while underlying is a multitude of innovations: Figure-1 illustrates the adoption expectations.
Seven technologies are commercially identified as strategic for 2019 and these are the sinews of the latest generation of warfare: autonomous things (robotics, internet of things (IOT), unmanned autonomous vehicles, under-water UAVs, augmented analytics, artificial intelligence based infrastructure, 5G, cloud/ fog, blockchains, crypto-currencies & digital assets, smart contracts and other platforms like infrastructures, platforms and software as-a-service. These are all wrapped within a flurry of regulatory frameworks, ethical policies, legal and intellectual property rights buffers against hostile competitive entry. Specific monopolies through delivery techniques/ platforms in use are called x-Tech and include Mil-Tech, Def-Tech, Fin-Tech, Reg-Tech, Gov-Tech, Prop-Tech, Insure-Tech, Medi-Tech, Cyber. These require dedicated diplomatic effort for protection of Pakistan’s commercial, financial and economic interests. This is where the war is being fought, not on or behind traditional lines of defence.
Easily inferable is dual-use nature of these technologies. While apparently independent propaganda-press harps on social and personal comforts created by such automation, these have lethal and pervasive connotations as tools of espionage, asymmetric warfare, remote intrusions and deterrence enforcements. Consider the consequences if the national decision-making hierarchy of a nuclear-armed state is incapacitated through these tools just before it has to take a decision to use it or lose it.
From the military infrastructure perspective, these innovative technologies have triggered a sharp transitioning of generational warfare from ‘so-called’ 5th to 8th Generation, resulting in structural changes across all aspects of defence and security operations. The G-3, G-8 and P-5 nations are fiercely competing to the extent that the Russian President Putin in 2017, declared that, “The nation that maintains the supremacy in Artificial Intelligence will rule the world.” This orientation, if technically edited by inserting the term “IDM mosaic” instead of just the AI component, allows an improved view of bigger picture for fast-evolving Mil-Tech/ Def-Tech landscapes and thus a deeper orientation on associated diplomatic challenges as needed in Pakistan. The country badly needs to develop dual-use leading-edge military applications like yesterday (see Table-1).
Table 1 – Dual-use Military Applications (illustrative and non-exhaustive listing)
The x-Tech are thus creating unique global diplomacy stress-zones and South Asia is no exception. The diplomacy and defence strategy challenges within Pakistan’s geopolitical context are even more accentuated and require an urgent, smart and institutionally well-concerted response. The private sector will be a follower or supporting enabler, at least in the medium term. Among many, five major inferences can be drawn from the above birds eye view of current generation of warfare.
One, Harvard Business Review termed “data as the next generation oil.” It is not only a means for gaining competitive advantages, negotiation edge, and securing our economic interests through advanced analytics or adequate monetization, but is also integral to maintaining national security.
Two, the overlapping nature of x-Tech requires an integrated policy development and monitoring capacity. The bureaucratic-silo approach and traditional government processes will not be able to compete with the demands of this generation of warfare.
Three, Pakistan’s current practice for buying technology user licenses and remain an end-user has become a direct national security threat. Foremost risk is to allow vendors to open customer accounts from offshore, thereby creating a parallel unsupervised capital flow channel. Likewise, non-participation in the global Fin-tech and crypto-currencies arena and banning these is a mistake because it has created an undocumented channel for capital haemorrhage. Disregarding emerging technologies is hampering growth and competitive position.
Four, x-Tech adoption must ensure home-based technological ownership, technology transfers and capabilities to maintain well-protected data repositories within Pakistan’s sovereign jurisdictions – as done by China and others. Inability to design customized standards will risk national security.
Five, since disruptive technologies affect inter-state political and economic relations, the relevant ministries must have synergy and joint ownership of these affairs. However, the 18th Amendment would affect the implementation of state-level interventions.
To conclude, Pakistan has lived up to a similar technology vs. security challenge back in 1974-84. Now Pakistan has to adopt an innovative diplomatic strategy that involves dual-use IDM mosaic. It will be a clear departure from the past once Pakistan’s nuclear development could take place in a covert silo. The new approach to fight the 8th generation warfare and retain competitive strategic advantage inter alia involves embracing Fintech & Smart Contract based strategies to fund Pakistan’s security objectives. The key would be not to get intimidated by technological sophistication, or foreign-preached misconceptions against developing home-grown solutions or taking acquired-building-blocks approaches. Pakistan has the core elements and it is just a matter of evolution through a persistent, patient, disciplined development.
Najeeb Zaidi is an investment-banking, risk management and financial technologies professional, with twenty-five years’ experience. He specialises in artificial intelligence, quantum computing and other emerging technologies.