Shaping the Information Environment

Colonel Amardeep Singh, SM (R)*

Information Warfare is a ‘much talked about but little understood’ form of warfare. The terms hybrid warfare, non-contact warfare, economic warfare, legal warfare can be found in most of the journals that talk about international relations and military concepts. We are happy to present a series of articles written by Col Amardeep Singh, SM (R), who has been dealing with this subject since 2014. Here is the first article in the series.

Information Space like any other space, if not filled with the right information is likely to get filled with the wrong one. (Army War College, Mhow, IW Division Quote)

After air, land, sea, and space, the cognitive or information space is the fifth dimension of warfare. We came up with the information warfare doctrine as a result of the Kargil War. This doctrine has been revised and updated from time to time, but we still have not fully understood the import of the subject – not only at the armed forces but also at the national level. On the other hand, our adversaries seem to have learnt it quite well, and they have used its various components including psychological warfare, propaganda, cyber warfare, and perception management tools to share the information environment in their favour.

The current example of the SARS-CoV Virus not being allowed to be named Chinese Virus or Wuhan Virus is a result of shaping the information space. Similarly, Pakistan has been successful in playing the victim card despite being overtly and covertly involved with the production and export of various instruments of terror to the entire world. We are the direct victims of enemy-sponsored violence, but we have not been able to convince the global audiences about us being at the receiving end.

The proliferation of the internet and social media has taken away the control over the narrative from the authorized (state) agencies and given it to anyone who understands its power. Terms like social media influencers, toolkits, issues going viral, etc have found a permanent place in our mind-space. No one could imagine that major conflicts could be directed through mobile phones. Applications like Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, Podcasts, and YouTube have become highly potent weapons of Information Warfare wherein small players and non-state actors can pose a direct threat to established state agencies. Information warfare aims to bring the entire narrative into the grey zone. If we do not respond adequately to the adversary’s Information warfare, there would be a possibility that our own troops and population may lose confidence in their capabilities, and we may end up responding to the narrative generated and propagated by the adversary.  

The high speed of data transmission, the flexibility of format, inherent anonymity, deniability, and low cost with little or no legal barriers have made information warfare and its tools very popular amongst the inimical forces, terror groups, and even organized armies. We saw the full use of the media part of information warfare in both the Gulf Wars, Kargil Conflict, and the Middle East (Middle West for us) and is evident in the ongoing low-intensity conflict in J&K, North East, and in the (so-called) Red Corridor.

The state will have to re-define the legal and bureaucratic boundaries to ensure that the labyrinth of procedures does not become a hindrance in fully exploiting the potential of information warfare. For the success of any conflict, be it surgical strikes in Balakot or the not-so-old violent action in Galwan, the information space has to be managed well. We have all the necessary tools and know-how, but we need political and military will as also flexibility in our operational doctrine to adapt to this new form of warfare. All agencies need to be in sync to build a coherent and long-term narrative. Good examples of shaping the information environment can be seen when the Ayodhya issue was resolved without any major (violent) fallout. Removal of Article 370 from J&K and bifurcation of the state into Union Territories have an inbuilt information management plan. The ongoing management of the Covid pandemic is a result of the shaping of the information environment by the government.

Business houses and political parties have successfully used data analytics to steer the outcome of their campaigns in their favour. Cricket as a sport has a massive information dimension that has subsumed all other sports. The narrative built by the US in favour of its operations the world over is careful shaping of the information space. However, the master positions of this warfare can be safely awarded to the Russians and Chinese.

Despite having the best scientific know-how and innovative brainpower, we lag in this domain. The situation is not likely to improve unless we shed our bureaucratic, intelligence, political and military silos and understand the nature of this ever-changing form of warfare.

We are moving in the right direction, but the speed is much below the minimum acceptable level and poor understanding of the subject coupled with lack of will to act will not only give an undue advantage to the adversary in the ongoing and future conflicts but also may lead to massive physical damage too. Stuxnet of 2007 was the first known use of a cyber weapon to cause physical damage. The problem with the information warfare tools is that, unlike the conventional weapons, their deterrence value lies in maintaining secrecy till the very last.

We are fast moving towards high-speed information highways and interconnectivity, to the stage of IoT (internet of things). Very soon, almost everything will be a potential weapon and everything will be a potential target. The future wars will primarily be fought in the information space, and anyone who masters it will be the winner.

******

Colonel Amardeep, a 1993 Batch Infantry Officer, has served in the Indian army for 25 years. He has dealt with the subject of Information warfare, Media, and Social Media for over 10 years. He was an instructor in the Information Warfare Division at the Army war College, Mhow (MP). Col Amardeep is a poet also and you can see his poems here. Furthermore, he blogs at soldierwithapen.blogspot.com, www.soldierspeaks.wordpress.com

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the personal opinion of the author and do not reflect the views of raagdelhi.com which does not assume any responsibility for the same.

36 COMMENTS

  1. Dear Col Saab,
    It’s a wonderful info, like as usual u have a wast knowledge of the subject. I always love to read all your latest updates. Thanks you sir for personally sharing to me . Please do send in coming days as well , I wish you all the very best and please enlighten many with your , experience,, thanks once again sir . God bless 🙏🙏🙏🙏

  2. Surely, Information warfare is a 5th Gen. War comes with so much propaganda and manipulated information, China, Russia, USA like big countries have done master in it. Pakistan is also doing information warfare along with conventional manner. We will have to get ready for this ASAP.
    It is also new field where Hackers get into other countries system, and get the info. Where we can use the info to counter attack in the warfare.
    Information is the key, and information warfare is the future along with chemical and biological weapons. Conventional weapons like Guns may be use in Direct war but next gen war will be based on Information, Biological and Chemical Warfare.

  3. Very nicely explained sir. The time is surely near when everything will be a weapon and eveything will be a target.

  4. Much appreciated sir, Amar sir you always rock, hope will get chance to take your autograph one day…🙏 jai hind sir 🙏

  5. Correctly said Sir. Information is Power in today’s world. Those who have information is more powerful.
    Internet is a very vast network, people share data easily even we also. But someone is there who is waiting for that clue behind anything we upload or browse.
    Stay Safe Everyone

    Jai Hind

  6. I found the article very accurate and balanced as far as I know Information and propaganda are two of most exploited fields in any conflict and even used widely during Peace time.

  7. Very informative and to the point sir…. I haven’t read that before related to this topic with this clarity!

  8. Got to knew some new knowledge regarding this. I know Amardeep Sir & he is a very good human being !

  9. Colonal Amardeep Singh writes so well on information warfare. Here he talks about various aspects of IW. Arab spring is the biggest example of the power of information sharing portals. Now a days IW is the importance for every country and some of the counties using This to create a narrative on world level. As the colonal Amardeep Singh G give example of Pakistan.
    Fantastic Article. Waiting for next article of this series

  10. A well researched and articulated piece by Col. AD.
    In addition to bureaucracy, working in silos etc the most important change needed is that of mindset.
    Info warfare , like conventional warfare , is a national effort and can never be achieved by keeping the private sector isolated from it due to trust issues. Relying only on Govt agencies to deal with Info Warfare is and will remain a non starter.
    Why can’t global IT giants like Infosts, Wipro, TCS, HCL etc be trusted with developing IW solutions?

  11. Nice article sir. Ye dil maange more. A detailed article is required on information warfare. The aam janta need to understand the importance.

  12. You did a good job sir that you have written an article on “shaping the information environment” This article is very knowledgeable and especially for youths, because in our India very few people talk and write about this new weapon of war that is information warfare, the point you have Put in this article is really very effective,
    And I would like to thank you for such a knowledgeable and effective article, 💐🙏🏼🇮🇳

  13. Highly informative article that stresses the need to put in place the political and military will.
    The second point of importance was to create a long term sustaining project.

    With the digital revolution going on in the country there couldn’t be a suitable time to get a project in place where the common man can be a part of and contribute in this warfare to defend the information space.

    With respect to AD sir 🙏 JAI HIND

  14. The article is very informative and significant especially in these times wherein our adversaries have already mastered the information warfare technique.

  15. Excellent article sir, really it is node to see someone who belong to defence force raise this issue…
    Neighbourhoods already working on this model since long time against India in fact they have budgetary provision and department for circulating FAKE OPINION AND AGENDA on various platforms to influence common people.
    They definitely have BOUGHT some journos also as it’s clearly visible in some specific media’s platform through articles and fake narratives.
    Salute for your observation and insightful article.

  16. Good info about cyber warfare & its different aspects, Col AD’s command over the subject matter is exemplary, thanks for letting ordinary citizens know this dimension of military warfare.

  17. Dear Colonel Amardeep,

    You are a bundle of so many talents, we find it difficult to fathom, how you manage to do so much. You are an inspiration for people who know you.

    You have really simplified a very important subject for lay man and brought out its importance in so many words. It really will inspire people to go forth and do a deep dive to understand its impact for our society and the nation.

  18. A very well articulated piece of information. The issues have been driven home very aptly in a simple way that it is understood by most.
    Thank you for sharing your views on the subject from your vast experience in this field.

  19. Dear Col. AD
    A very well articulated piece of information. The issues have been driven home very aptly in a simple way that it is understood by most.
    Thank you for sharing your views on the subject from your vast experience in this field.

  20. What an Amazing Article on Information Warfare…The 5th generation warfare…India need to do alot in Information warfare….Thanks for the Article Babaji…🙏

  21. Sir,

    Very logical, sensible & practical comments.
    Keep sharing & motivating such knowledgeable communication.

    With Warm Regards
    Raju Nagare.

  22. AD Sir,

    Very logical, sensible & practical comments.
    Keep sharing & motivating such knowledgeable communication.

    With Warm Regards
    Raju Nagare.

  23. Heard about the Information warfare many times and tried to understand, but couldn’t found such easy to understand article anywhere. The language and information are very simple which can be easily understand by the civilian.

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