‘Outgoing PM asked me to brief details of N-programme to Vajpayeeji’

I am presenting my study results to you in three parts based on my core competence in systems design, systems integration and systems management... in space programmes and defence strategic programmes. Part one discusses improbables and their characteristics with a message. Part two will discuss the calculus of life with a message. Part three will be on technology as a great unifier and performance enhancer in every field...


The incident goes like this: an important event was to take place the next day. Multiple agencies were in action... At the Chandipur flight test range, a series of 12 Trishuls were launched. At the island range at a stealth launch pad, simulated Agni launch preparations were going on... In [the] Pokhran ranges, away from the action, a number of rockets — PINAKA type — were put into action... This was a well planned way of diverting the attention of snoopers. India woke up the next day to the news that three nuclear tests had been conducted on the same day and another two the next day... The whole event can be classified as more than a Black Swan... The message I would like to convey, even though our actions are patriotic actions to make the nation strong, [is that ] there are nations and their terrorist institutions [that] would use Black Swans against other nations, particularly India... That means India has to invest in the generation of knowledge and ability to convert the improbable.


I would like to share a real-time experience I had when I was the scientific advisor to the defence minister with two great leaders of our country. I still remember a scene in May, 1996. It was 9 pm. I got a call from the then prime minister's house that I should meet the PM, P.V. Narasimha Rao, immediately. I [had] met him just two days before the announcement of the general election results. He told me, "Kalam, be ready with DAE [Department of Atomic Energy] and your team for the N-test... You wait for my authorisation to go ahead with the test. DRDO-DAE teams must be ready for action". Of course, the election result was quite different from what he anticipated. I was busy in [the] Chandipur missile range. I got a call saying that I must meet immediately the PM-designate, Atal Bihari Vajpayeeji, with Narasimha Raoji. I witnessed a unique situation. Narasimha Raoji, the outgoing PM, asked me to brief the details of [the] N-programme to Vajpayeeji, so that a smooth takeover of such an important programme could take place. This reveals the maturity and professional excellence of a patriotic statesman who believed that the nation is bigger than

the political system. Of course, after taking over as PM in 1998, the first task given by Vajpayeeji to us was to conduct the nuclear test at the earliest. Both these leaders had the courage to take difficult decisions boldly, even though the consequences of such a decision had great national and geopolitical significance... great leadership has to respect the fact that the nation is bigger than any organisation or the political system.


Here, I would like to discuss only two aspects. One is cyber terrorism and counter-measures. Another is cyber war. The world has changed dramatically since the Cold War era. During those years, the enemy was clear... Today, we are faced with a new world in which change occurs very rapidly, and the enemy is asymmetric and poses a very different challenge; the most significant threat today is foreign terrorists and terrorist networks whose identities and whereabouts we do not always know. In today's world, IT plays a crucial role in overcoming this challenge. Some core IT areas we consider crucial for counterterrorism are: collaboration, analysis and decision support tools; foreign language tools; pattern analysis tools; and predictive (or anticipatory) modelling tools.

Cyber war can be fought by anyone; even an individual using his hacking skills against huge corporations, nations or even different civilisations... The individual could be acting alone; he could be part of a group pursuing its inimical agenda or could be state supported, working to further the plans of the state. Amongst various types of warfare, cyber war is the low-cost option. I have two suggestions for countering the cyber security threat. One is technology upgrade in cyber security, and second is investment and education in cyber security...

One possible solution to counter threats is by being visible in the public domain and creating greater awareness breaking the traditional masks of secrecy that surround intelligence operations. This exercise of being present in the event, dominating social media to garner support from the public and managing social media through well orchestrated planning, would be the greatest challenge for RAW in the years to come... Predicting cascade effects in social media and the ability to alter the outcome of such cascades and arrest them when needed or directing to them one's own advantage requires the symbiotic convergence of not merely the technology and social sciences, but also watchful monitoring. The technologies underpinning social media should be used to the advantage of unifying people for national growth and security. This will form the major thrust of all intelligence activities.

A.P.J. Abdul Kalam was President of India from 2002-07

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