Role Of Emerging Technologies On Future Warfare In South Asia – OpEd


The evolutionary process of warfare takes hundreds of years to change the warfare trends and it involves a number of other factors that contribute to the changes in warfare. Technology always leads the race in changing warfare techniques and the way war is waged is affected by the use of technology and techniques.

The role of technologies in warfare has pulled the debate towards the emergence of disruptive technologies. It is considered that these technologies have the potential to change the nature of warfare and it is going to be the next generation of warfare. Emerging technologies such as AI, Cyberspace, ASAT, robots, drones and hypersonic weapons have the potential to bring change into warfare and their application in upcoming conflicts is posing serious threats.

AI is one of the dominant disruptive technologies that are made up of a variety of tools that allows machines to keep track of different activities including military activity around them and to respond independently relying on the intelligence that has been transferred to them. AI is beneficial in cyberspace for monitoring and thwarting adversarial cyber-attacks. Similar to this, airborne drones may easily target enemy troops on a battleground by detecting and identifying them using sensors. The most difficult weapons to limit via arms control agreements are artificial intelligence (AI) and cyber-attacks because they are impossible to quantify.

Unmanned weapons, Autonomous weapons, or lethal autonomous weapons that employ drone and AI technologies to jointly locate and strike an opponent’s assets are a part of cyber warfare. Killer robots are another term for unmanned weaponry, which may be used to follow the enemy without the direct involvement of a person. According to the US Department of Defense, autonomous weapons are “weapon systems that, once triggered, may choose and attack targets without additional human operator engagement.” The widespread use of these weapons would endanger global stability and international norms.

Nuclear and other weapons can be carried by hypersonic weapons, which move close to the speed of sound. They are used for nuclear delivery systems as well as quick reactions. When the opponent is not even ready and does not even consider being assaulted, it is utilized to attack quickly on the enemy-targeted locations. These non-nuclear weapons also threaten strategic stability, perhaps increasing the likelihood of guaranteed retaliation.

The destabilization of outer space is being brought on by ASATs, or anti-satellite tests. The performance of operations in outer space especially orbits around the planet, is becoming increasingly dangerous as a result of ASAT. For instance, there were uncertainties around the globe when China conducted an ASAT test in 2009. 

India is acquiring emerging technologies to protect its national interest. Indian perspective for acquiring disruptive technologies is to protect them from threats and to protect their national policy objectives. History shows that whenever India acquired technology with a reason for its peaceful uses, it converted it into a military domain later. The same is the case for the acquisition of emerging technologies. Indian policy is based on the hegemonic design as it wants to be a regional power and they want the international community to consider India among major powers. On the other hand, India is trying to compete with China in terms of technology and especially in the military domain. India is trying hard to achieve the emerging technologies and capability to use them against adversary states. India has the advantage of US strategic partnership as they helped Indians in acquiring more technology and military advancements because they want India to be a competitive state against China and to limit the Chinese rising influence in South Asia. The US is making India a part of a strategic partnership and many international regimes and treaties and providing them the opportunity to work without any international restrictions. 

“India is now preparing for cutting-edge technologies including 5G, AI, blockchain, augmented reality, virtual reality, machine learning & deep learning, robots, and NLP. Whether it is planning or decision-making, speeding development or assessing deployment, problem-solving or product creation, or identifying new patterns or correlations, these will play a significant role in both government and business”.

The Indian military is working on hypersonic cruise missile defense and became the fourth country to develop HWs. They have to operationalize them in all three military domains i.e., army navy and air force. Now they are working to develop the hypersonic weapon with the joint collaboration of Russia and DRDO. The Mashinostroyenia of Russia with the collaboration of DRDO and NPO has established the BrahMos Aerospace Company for manufacturing cruise missiles in New Delhi. Hypersonic Cruise Missiles (HCMs) are air-breathing, air-propelled missiles that are fired from rocket boosters before drifting freely from across atmosphere and falling to respective targets. Hypersonic weapons having nuclear or non-nuclear warheads can be employed to specifically target nuclear weapons and command-and-control facilities, as well as to destroy ballistic missiles, ASATs, guidance systems, rocket systems, warships, and many other vital targets. It appears that India is creating HCMs, most prominently the Brahmos-II, to increase strategic deterrence against China and Pakistan.

Indian aspirations to acquire these technologies have pushed South Asia into another arms race. The strategic stability of South Asia is again at the risk due to the military use of these technologies and the possible use of nuclear weapon. By making conflict more feasible, modern technological technologies have raised the likelihood of full-scale war and the potential use of nuclear weapons. For instance, AI-controlled swarms can locate and destroy enemy assets like surface ships, radar systems, and submarines. Hypersonic missiles allow for first strikes during a crisis and have the ability to launch cyber-attacks and nuclear warheads at the very beginning of the battle. All of these techniques make it difficult for the targeted state to launch an immediate nuclear strike in response.

AI is keen to be included in military activities in China and India. According to publicly available information, Pakistan has not yet established an official position on the use of AI in the military but in recent years they have started working on research and developments in the field of emerging technologies. Pakistan’s efforts in the domain of emerging technologies are not enough to confront the evolving threat from its adversary. Pakistan is currently not intended to use these technologies in the military domain; they are working to enhance the research in these domains so they can help the scientific community and experts to execute these technologies in the development of a country. They are trying to do more in the field of agriculture to boost their economy. But one cannot undermine the evolving regional threat. In a globalized economy, the person with the technical advantage will rule the globe, as reflected by Alfred Thayer. 

Indian quest for these emerging technologies and their disruptive uses is posing a significant threat to not only Pakistan but to the stability of the region. Pakistan is holding a stance to ban the disruptive use of these emerging technologies because India is posing a serious threat in South Asia and Pakistan is currently unable to balance the conventional gap. 

Technology will continue to have a more significant influence on international politics than any other issue, just as it did in the past few decades. The disparities in technical advancement among countries will continue to serve as the foundation for geopolitical alignments in the near future. Governments will benefit from their relative technical superiority over rivals in a globalized economy. A state’s position in the regional and international order will depend on its accessibility to technology.  

The author has done MS in Strategic Studies from Air University Islamabad and currently teaching as visiting faculty in Islamic International University Islamabad. She write on South Asian security and strategic issues.

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