China ahead of India in terms of tech, poses cyberattack threat: Gen Bipin Rawat

Siliguri, India: Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat said Wednesday that China is capable of conducting cyber attacks against India adding that there is a technological capability gap between the two countries as well, PTI reported

In an address at the Vivekananda International Foundation, Gen Rawat said that India's leadership demonstrated political will and resolve to defend national interests in the face of an "unprovoked attack" on its stability and integrity, which he said at as an apparent jibe to the deadly border dispute with China in eastern Ladakh, last year. 

According to Gen Rawat, the biggest difference between India and China now is in the cyber domain. He said China has particularly spent a lot of money on new technologies.

Gen Rawat's comments come months after a high-profile cyber attack was lined to Chinese sources that left huge swatches of Mumbai without power including stopping the suburban railway and affecting hundreds of millions. 

Chinese hackers used sophisticated malware to target Indian grid software responsible for regulating power output in vital regions which affected the city of great importance. 

General Rawat said that a "capability differential" has developed between India and China over time and that China now has a "lead" over India in terms of technology.

India knows China is capable of launching cyber attacks and disrupt a significant portion of our networks, he said. 

“What we are trying to do is to create a system which would ensure cyber defense," he said.

In this light, he said, the goal has been to build firewalls to deal with cyber-attacks and that the problem is being tackled "seriously."

Strengthening the system

According to the CDS, each country has its own cyber agency to ensure that even though they are subjected to a cyber assault, the downtime and impact of the attack do not last long.

"What we are trying to do is to create a system which would ensure cyber defense...

We should be able to overcome cyber-attacks and continue with our systems either through an alternative or preventive means through firewalls," he said.

"I would unhesitatingly say that the Navy is far ahead than the Army and the Air Force as far as the way they are imbibing technology," General Rawat said.

The defense chief also said that India must resist the urge to follow the Western world for security solutions.

Instead, India should invite the world to come and learn from its immense experience in coping with diverse challenges.

"Democracy, justice, liberty, and international peace call upon us to enhance our global reach and play an important role in global and regional affairs by promoting international peace and stability through a rules-based international order," he said.

General Rawat stated that India's external threats can be met through effective diplomacy and adequate defense capabilities, but he also stated that strong political institutions, economic development, social peace, efficient law and order machinery, expeditious judicial relief, and good governance are "prerequisites for internal stability," the Press Trust of India reported. 

"Our leadership has displayed the political will and determination to uphold our vital national interests in face of an unprovoked assault on our security, values, and indeed our dignity," he said. The CDS, however, did not elaborate further.

Cannot go back...

Mr. Rawat opined that India cannot go back to the past when it comes to technology. Reforms, as a result, are crucial, and that there is a need to resolve and fully shed the colonial era syndrome. 

According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) -- a bipartisan, nonprofit policy research organization --  China's 2021 defense budget was set at 1.36 trillion yuan ($2,07,87,16,07,200.00), a 6.8 percent increase from the 1.27 trillion yuan budget set last year. 

Meanwhile, India's defense budget for 2020-21 is set at INR 4,78,195.62 crores which is a meager 1.4 % rise from the last year. 

According to Observer Research Foundation (ORF), India's defense budget focus "seems to invariably be on modernization. Significant increases in the Air Force and the Navy’s capital outlays especially highlight this."

When asked about the changing situation in Afghanistan, Gen Rawat said that the Taliban is attempting to gain ground and that India is keeping a close eye on the situation.

"Our backyard, hence, continues to remain full of contradictions, disparities, and paradoxes. Hence there is an emergent need to develop a vision for the region," General Rawat said.

"However, one must be careful to not bite more than what one can chew. Hence, the vision for the region, even our global vision must be intrinsically linked to our national interests with a direct link to our national security," he said.

General Rawat also said that the time has come for the military to invest heavily in technology.

He stated that work is being done to establish a national maritime commission under the Navy and that the new body will ensure convergence among users operating on the high seas and along the coastline.

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