D.C. Pathak | 30 Jul, 2023
Of all the matters validating strategic cooperation between India and
the US from a long-term perspective, perhaps the most important point
in the current - that might have gone somewhat unnoticed by the analysts
- is the pledge of common resolve of President Joe Biden and Prime
Minister Narendra Modi to keep up commitments on safety, security and
trust in regard to Artificial Intelligence (AI).
The US is already
working with seven leading AI companies including Google, Microsoft,
Amazon, and Meta to make sure that AI applications were built up as a
safe and trustworthy instrument for lifting the humanity at large.
goes to the credit of Prime Minister Modi, who in his recent visit to
the US took up the AI issues in an in-depth manner during his talks with
President Biden - with full realisation that AI was going to affect
Science Advisor to President Biden, Arati
Prabhakar of Indian origin, announced that Indo-US cooperation would
boost the ability to deal with AI’s harms and start using it for good.
is an implied acknowledgement of the great reality that Information
Technology can be used with equal effectiveness as a weapon of combat in
‘information warfare’ and other covert operations as well as as a means
of spreading subversion and radicalisation.
The potential for
misuse includes malware injection technologies, data manipulation,
forgery, cyber-attacks and terrorism. On the other hand, AI-powered
cyber security solutions in coordination with human intelligence can be
extremely useful particularly when one is dealing with large amounts of
The AI can analyse this data to find patterns and anomalies and possibly detect the modus operandi of the adversary’s operation.
sobering thought is that of all digital data in the world 90 percent
has been created in the last two years - the speed with which
information is generated apart, protection of personal data is the
Smart computer systems are becoming
increasingly adept at remembering and reading what we as people would be
doing - this includes skills of ‘looking’, ‘listening’ or ‘speaking’.
And they learn to discover patterns and rules from huge amounts of data
which can even give them an upper hand in some areas of human activity.
systems are faster, are never tired and have a built-in capacity to
learn from examples. They are better able to recognise art forgery and
detect dementia before a medical specialist could consider that option
and predict diabetes.
The predictive value of AI is very extensive within the input-output paradigm that remained its defining feature.
is said to have taken to ‘predictive shipping’ whereby they would be
able to send you a package before even you know you want it. AI does
appear to be overriding the limitation of the input-output principle
while creating new products and services.
An area of concern
regarding AI is that if ‘automated decision-making systems’ are fed
discriminatory data, they will reproduce the bias of the input reflected
in the choice of algorithm and yet have the advantage of falsely
inspiring more belief because of the human nature of considering these
systems trustworthy. This bias can come into play in the area of
‘predictive policing’ where the vulnerable in society could face an
undeserved disadvantage on account of a contaminated data set traceable
to the hostility of a certain kind from data providers. On the other
hand, an AI company can use its resources for producing clearly defined
profiles of people - with greater precision - which can be used for
It is a measure of the apprehensions about the
possible misuse of AI that governments across the world are already
seized of the issue of putting in place laws and restrictions to
regulate AI operations.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India
(TRAI) has recommended the creation of an independent statutory body to
ensure the right development of AI across sectors. It wanted the
adoption of an ethical code by both public and private entities.
use of data has been flagged by TRAI as a major concern for the
government as well as corporate entities. It has to be understood that
AI-powered national security systems run the risk of hacking or
manipulation by the adversary with disastrous consequences. AI is
effectively used in rockets, missiles, aircraft carriers, naval assets
and other automated defence systems. Creators of AI need to know that
the new technology could also be used by the enemy for indoctrinating
young minds and raising agents of terror including ‘lone wolves’. On the
other hand, AI-based systems can be proactively used for detecting
whether a website or email is a phishing trap. In short, the inevitable
use of AI brings in its own challenges spanning the ethical and
Major powers like the US and China are
investing big time in creating AI-based systems in their search for
maintaining a military lead. AI is being used for preparations needed
for facing the future battlefield.
Meanwhile, AI’s wide
applicability in almost every sector has permeated human lives ranging
from the service sector using voice assistants like Alexa, Siri and OTT
platforms to health care, agriculture, climate change and financial
spheres. However, its immense potential in the area of security and
defence is what is attracting the attention of policymakers and defence
Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR),
cyber security, military logistics and in particular Lethal Autonomous
Weapons Systems(LAWS) have acquired newfound importance because of AI
and so have image clarification from drone footage and geospatial data
In the military domain, an area of concern is that AI
is providing new autonomous and affordable capabilities to a wide range
of actors. AI has given weak states and non-state actors more options to
enhance their capabilities and in the process strengthened asymmetric
warfare possibilities. Too much AI development favoured on the
presumption of its potential positives should not make people oblivious
of its negative side including in particular, the danger posed to
national security itself.
The risk of AI Chatbots influencing
young minds vulnerable to neurodivergence to become terrorists is real.
Greater transparency has to be demanded of AI technology companies and
this would include identifying the personnel responsible for checking
the guardrails. These members could themselves become a source of threat
on account of some vulnerability they were suffering from - they should
rightly be kept in the purview of a functioning internal vigilance
system that all sensitive organisations were expected to have.
in AI is expressed mainly in ‘machine learning’ that can enable a high
degree of automation in otherwise labour-intensive activities such as
satellite imagery analysis and cyber defences.
AI will affect
national security generally while driving military and information
superiority because of the fact that the adversary could be using the
same AI operations for damaging the other side.
The US National
Commission on AI had in 2020 recommended that the US should form a
US-India Strategic Tech Alliance (USISTA) to develop an Indo-Pacific
strategy on emerging technologies considering India’s enhanced
The India-US 2+2 dialogue has called for
strengthening bilateral partnerships on these technologies, particularly
in the field of energy.
The QUAD summit of 2022 flagged
cooperation in the sphere of AI. Advances in AI will progressively
multiply threats, challenges and opportunities from the national
security perspective. India therefore, needs to create a supportive AI
Prime Minister Modi’s visit to the US has paved the
way for lasting cooperation between the two countries in the best
interest of both sides.
India is well ahead on its AI journey and
AI-enabled projects in defence are getting priority. An AI-based Signal
Intelligence Solution can enhance the Intelligence collection and
analysis capabilities of the armed forces. India is poised to become a
powerhouse of AI research and innovation as a responsible AI global
According to Sundar Pichai CEO of Google, ‘AI is probably
the most important thing that humanity has ever worked on’. India hosts
one of the most thriving start-up ecosystems with dozens of unicorns
using AI-powered tools. They are expanding the scope for AI strategy for
India and the world and especially for the global South - which this
country is successfully leading as the President of G20.
(The writer is a former Director of the Intelligence Bureau. Views expressed are personal)