Today’s weapon of choice, its expanding dimensions


As the 21st century advances, a new danger — the cyber threat — is becoming a hydra-headed monster. It is hardly confined to any one domain though the military is the one most often touted. Rather, it is the civilian sphere where the cyber threat is becoming more all-pervading today and, in turn, a serious menace.

Hybrid warfare:

What is most unfortunate is that not enough attention is being bestowed on the ‘all-encompassing nature’ of the cyber threat. In the wake of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the world seems awash with papers on artificial intelligence (AI)-driven military innovations and ‘potential crisis hot zones’, along with stray references to new forms of hybrid warfare.

Hybrid warfare is a theory of military strategy, first proposed by Frank Hoffman, which employs political warfare and blends conventional warfare, irregular warfare, and cyberwarfare with other influencing methods, such as fake news, diplomacy, lawfare and foreign electoral intervention.

But there is very little about the threat posed by cyber attacks. Ignored also is the new reality of the ‘weaponisation of everything’ which has entered the vocabulary of threats. The lack of awareness about cyberwar is unfortunate at a time when states clearly lack the necessary resilience to face a variety of multi-vector threats.

Grey zone operations (GZOs):

  • GZOs are those operations which fall outside traditional concepts of conflicts. GZOs have become the new battleground, especially in cyber warfare, where they are being used to undermine the vitals of a state’s functioning.
  • Cyber space has been described by Lt. Gen. Rajesh Pant (retired), India’s current national cyber security coordinator, as a “superset of interconnected information and communication technology, hardware, software processes, services, data and systems”. Viewed from this perspective, it constitutes a critical aspect of our national power.
  • Cyber threats are all-pervading,embracing many regions and operating on different planes. Hence, dealing with the cyber threat calls for both versatility and imaginative thinking. Demands for a cyber command, in line of Integrated Theatre Commands (ITCs) by the Indian military ignore the widely varying nature of the cyber threat.

Cyberwar trends:

  • The recent arrest in India, of a Russian for hacking into computers involved in the conduct of examinations for entry into the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), is a reflection of how cyber criminals are significantly amplifying their ‘Grey Zone Warfare’ tactics. So ‘Grey Zone Warfare’ is set to become the predominant paradigm for the remainder of the century. This adds urgency to erecting proper defences against Grey Zone attacks.
  • Till now, technology was perceived as a foolproof means to end malpractices, but the recent incident calls into question the veracity of such assumptions. What is even more consequential is that it significantly raises the bar as far as the intensity and scale of cyber attacks on other national assets and infrastructure are concerned, with many more of them coming under still more aggravated assaults.

Cyber space battles, dilemmas:

  • It can be argued that there may be nothing radically wrong in highlighting cyber space as essentially a locus of geo-political conflict — the Russia-Ukraine crisis being an instance — but there is much more to the cyber threat than this. In the case of the Russia-Ukraine war, cyber space has become an experiment for various players to try and support a weaker nation against a more powerful opponent, through distortion of information and communication flows, which are considered essential to the success or failure of any war strategy.
  • While Russia may not publicly admit to the fact that it is hurting, with most global information networks being ranged against it and distorting realities, it has certainly added a new cyber dimension to the ongoing conflict. While its effect on the course of the conflict may not be decisive, the potential for mischief is immense. Additionally, distortion by private players of the concept of the ‘information super highway’ casts a dark shadow over the entire current systems of belief, providing a great deal of fuel for thought — more specifically when such influences turn out to be fake or distorted.

Way forward:

This begs for the implementation of National Cyber Security Strategy (NCSS) as given by the Data Security Council of India (DSCI), for a safe, secure, trusted, resilient, and vibrant cyberspace for India.

Focus Areas of NCSS :

  1. Large scale digitisation of public services: Focusing on security in the early stages of design in all digitisation initiatives, developing institutional capability for assessment, evaluation, certification, and rating of the core devices and timely reporting of vulnerabilities and incidents.
  2. Supply chain security: Monitoring and mapping of the supply chain of the Integrated circuits (ICT) and electronics products, scaling up product testing and certification, leverage the country’s semiconductor design capabilities globally at strategic, tactical and technical level.
  3. Critical information infrastructure protection: Integrating Supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) security with enterprise security, monitoring digitisation of devices, evaluating security devices, maintaining a repository of vulnerabilities, preparing an aggregate level security baseline of the sector and tracking its controls, devising audit parameters for threat preparedness and developing cyber-insurance products
  4. Digital payments: Mapping and modelling of devices and platform deployed, supply chain, transacting entities, payment flows, interfaces and data exchange, routine threat modelling exercises to disclose vulnerabilities, threat research and sharing of threat intelligence, timely disclosure of vulnerabilities
  5. State-level cyber security: Developing state-level cybersecurity policies, allocation of dedicated funds, critical scrutiny of digitization plans, guidelines for security architecture, operations, and governance
  6. Security of small and medium businesses: Policy intervention in cybersecurity granting incentives for higher level of cybersecurity preparedness, developing security standards, frameworks, and architectures for the adoption of Internet of Things (IoT) and industrialisation


  • Cambridge Analytica scandal erupted over the issue of its becoming involved in elections. Similar suspicions again surfaced regarding Facebook’s manipulation of personal data. Hence, it is evident that the cyber realm is no longer confined to events such as the Russia-Ukraine war and the battle is now in our own backyards, with several non-state actors engaging in hybrid warfare and distorting day-to-day practices, including examinations.
  • These pose legal, ethical and real dilemmas. Left unchecked, the world may have to confront a new kind of Wild West, before states find a common denominator for regulating cyber space and lay down proper rules and practices to prevent anarchy and chaos.

Food day as a reminder to ‘leave no one behind’


  • Barring the war-torn Afghanistan, India has performed worse than all the countries in the South Asian region in the Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2022. The European NGOs Concern Worldwide and Welthungerhilfe, which release the GHI annually, have ranked 107 out of 121 countries in 2022. Last year, India was ranked 101 out of 116 countries.
  • This has put in focus the allegedly worsening condition of hunger and malnutrition across the world, especially India.

Recent trends in hunger and malnutrition:

  • Globally, food and nutrition security continue to be undermined by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, spiralling food inflation, conflicts like Russia- Ukraine war, and inequality. Today, around 828 million people worldwide do not have enough to eat and over 50 million people are facing severe hunger.
  • Hunger Hotspots Outlook (HHO)— a report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and World Food Programme (WFP) — forebodes escalating hunger, as over 205 million people across 45 countries will need emergency food assistance to survive.

World Food Day:

  • This year’s World Food Day (October 16) has been a reminder to ensure that the most vulnerable people within our communities have easy access to safe and nutritious food. Only through collective and transformational action to strengthen agri-food systems, through better production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life, can we meet our promise to end hunger by 2030.
  • This year’s World Food Day is a reminder to ‘Leave No One Behind’ — and is an opportunity for nations to strengthen food security nets, provide access to essential nutrition for millions and promote livelihood for vulnerable communities.
Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2 aims to achieve “zero hunger“. It is one of the 17 SDGs established by the United Nations in 2015, to be achieved by 2030. The official wording is: “End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture”
  • However, United Nation in 2022 reported that the world is not on track to achieve Zero Hunger by 2030 and that if recent trends continue, the number of people affected by hunger would surpass 840 million by 2030.

Way forward:

1. Better production

  • Adequate food production is fundamental to attaining the goal of zero hunger. India has had an inspiring journey towards better production and achieving self-sufficiency and is now one of the largest agricultural product exporters in the world.
During 2021-22, India recorded $49.6 billion in total agriculture exports — a 20% increase from 2020-21. During the COVID-induced economic slowdown, agriculture was the lone bright spot. It was the only growing sector out of the 3 sectors of Indian economy. Agriculture also absorbed most of the surplus rural labour when there was a reverse migration from urban areas during the lockdowns in the pandemic.
  • However, recent climate shocks have raised concerns about India’s wheat and rice production over the next year. Given climate shocks and extreme weather phenomena, it is important to place a greater focus on climate adaptation and resilience building.
  • India’s agriculture sector primarily exports agriculture and allied products, marine products, plantations, and textile and allied products. Rice, sugar, and spices were some of the main exports. India is also a provider of humanitarian food aid, notably to Afghanistan, and to many other countries when the world faces food supply shortages and disruptions, such as during the current crisis in Ukraine.

2. A new agri-food system for the future:

  • By 2030, India’s population is expected to rise to 1.5 billion. Agri-food systems will need to provide for and sustainably support an increasing population. In the current times, there is an increased recognition to move away from conventional input-intensive agriculture towards more inclusive, effective, and sustainable agri-food systems that would facilitate better production.
  • Some initiatives by the Government of India on better production include
    • Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana, which promotes organic farming
    • Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana, which focuses on more crops per drop for improved water use
    • Soil Health Management which fosters Integrated Nutrient Management under the National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture.
    • For improving food access, Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY), Pradhan Mantri Poshan Shakti Nirman Yojana (PM POSHAN Scheme), and ration under NFSA through PDS.

PMGKAY scheme introduced in 2020 provided relief to 800 million beneficiaries covered under the NFSA from COVID-19-induced economic hardships. An International Monetary Fund (IMF) paper titled ‘Pandemic, Poverty, and Inequality: Evidence from India’ asserted that ‘extreme poverty was maintained below 1% in 2020 due to PMGKAY.

3. Better nutrition

  • One of India’s greatest contributions to equity in food is its National Food Security Act (NFSA) 2013 which anchors the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS), the PM POSHAN scheme (earlier known as the Mid-Day Meals scheme), and the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS).
  • Today, India’s food safety nets collectively reach over a billion people. The FAO and WFP works with State and national governments to strengthen these systems to ensure they become more efficient and reach the people who need them most. The Government also takes additional measures to improve these programmes with digitisation and measures such as rice fortification, better health, and sanitation.
Hidden hunger refers to Micronutrient deficiency. Micronutrient are vitamins and minerals which the body needs in small amounts. But if even this much amount of micronutrient is not available to the body, then one suffers from several disorders such as visual impairment, mental retardation, etc.
  • Food safety nets and inclusion are linked with public procurement and buffer stock policy. This was visible during the global food crisis of 2008-12 and more recently during the COVID-19 pandemic fallout, whereby vulnerable and marginalised families in India continued to be buffered by the TPDS.

4. Promoting Millets:

  • Millet is a common term to categorise small-seeded grasses that are often termed Nutri-cereals or dryland-cereals and includes sorghum, pearl millet, ragi etc.
  • Millets have recently received renewed attention as crops that are good for nutrition, health, and the planet. Millets are climate-smart crops that are drought-resistant, growing in areas with low rain and infertile soil. They require less water to cultivate (as much as 70% less than rice), and less energy to process (around 40% less than wheat). Since they need fewer inputs, they are less extractive for the soil and can revive soil health. Additionally, their genetic diversity ensures that agrobiodiversity is preserved.
  • India has led the global conversation on reviving millet production for better lives, nutrition, and the environment, including at the United Nations General Assembly, where it appealed to declare 2023 as the International Year of Millets. Indian Government declared 2018 as ‘National Year of Millets’ declaring millets as “Nutri-Cereals”, considering their “high nutritive value” and also “anti-diabetic properties”.
  • India is the world’s leading producer of millets, producing around 41% of total production in 2020. To enhance the area, production, and productivity of millets the national government is implementing a Sub-Mission on Nutri-Cereals (Millets) as part of the National Food Security Mission. Centre’s Millet Mission will focus on developing farm-gate processing and empowering farmers through collectives while focusing on value-addition and aggregation of the produce.
Many states have also started their own millet missions, like Odisha and Chhattisgarh. Odisha Millet Mission (OMM), for instance, aims to bring millets back to its fields and food plates by encouraging farmers to grow the crops that traditionally formed a substantial part of the diet and crop system in tribal areas. OMM also sells millet products, such as cookies, savoury snacks, vermicelli and processed millets, under a brand called “Millet Shakti” through food trucks, cafés, kiosks etc.
  • Millet production has been proven to enhance biodiversity and increase yields for smallholder farmers, including rural women. For example, the International Fund for Agricultural Development’s (IFAD’s) Tejaswini programme with the Government of Madhya Pradesh showed that growing millets meant a nearly 10 times increase in income from ₹1,800 per month in 2013-14 to ₹16,277 in 2020-21, with better food security. Women were key to villages adopting millets, as they were able to demonstrate that millets were easier to grow and led to better outcomes. The IFAD’s work with various State governments on millets exemplifies how getting the markets right to incentivise investment and to remunerate producers fairly can contribute to more inclusive and equitable food systems. India could use various multilateral fora, including the G20, to promote millet and agricultural biodiversity.


  • India must continue to lead by example on the principle of leaving no one behind. The upcoming G20 presidency for India provides an opportunity to bring food and nutrition security to the very centre of a resilient and equitable future and sharing its journey with the rest of the world.


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