Read Part 1 of the Interview here:
In conversation with Lt. Gen. Gurmit Singh (Part 1)
Lt. Gen. Gurmit Singh (Retd) belongs from Assam Regiment and has also had an opportunity to visit China on seven occasions as part of the expert group and joint working group. He also led a military delegation to China. He talks about his experience in China and also precisely explains how CCP and PLA works and controls their people. He explains the nuances of information warfare and influence operations and how future warfare would look like.
Goa Chronicle: You are from Assam Regiment and you have served in the Eastern Theater. You also have had the opportunity to visit China as part of an expert and joint working group and you led the military delegation on your visit to China. I would like to understand how CCP and PLA work in terms of warfare and power projection and also would like to understand their philosophy. How was your experience interacting with the general public there?
Lt. Gen. Gurmit Singh: I have been fortunate that I had the opportunity to visit China seven times as a part of the Expert Group and Joint Working Group. Also, I had led a military delegation to Shanghai, Urumchi, and Beijing. I had participated in a Course at the National Defence University, Taipei, Taiwan. With all this background and understanding of China and its system would say that Chinese people i.e. citizens are very simple and excellent. They are exceedingly hardworking and have a great family and social values, and ethics. There is so lot common between the Chinese and us. One relates more to a common Chinese person than the western people. We have had a common history of western powers exploiting India and China.
But unfortunately, the Communist Party of China and the PLA are different ball games. They are authoritative, centralized, and ruthlessly suppressive of their people. CCP is the sole governing system and does complete surveillance of their entire population. The CCP has optimally exploited Artificial Intelligence, Satellite communication systems, and social media to keep a strict eye on everyone in their country. The Chinese people are under ruthless control. The top leadership of PLA and CCP are like lords. In Beijing, when you see an expensive car with black window panes and a red registration plate, one can be certain that it belongs to PLA or Communist Party people. The CCP and PLA work strictly on the party lines, under a strict domain of dictates, and their narrative is inflexible. They do not tolerate dissent.
President Xi Jinping puts twelve hats on his head and has centralized everything in the country. They have strong intelligence and policing system. To sum up, the government system is too centralized, tight, and rigid in China. Apart from internal control, the CCP also wants to control the entire world. They feel they are the centre of the universe and desire to control the entire world. After they achieved continuous success in transforming the military, technology, and success in economy, they have gone egoistic with their power. They want to control the entire world through their economic assets. They are manipulative and oppressive to those under their debts and loans. They have exploited Pakistan through debts and loans and are interfering in their governance and administration. The way they have subjugated Pakistan is the lesson for the entire world on how and why to remain away from China.
China is also aware of their multitude of vulnerabilities that they have, in Xinjiang, Tibet, and Hong Kong. There are voices for democracy and democratic values within China. Unemployment and rich and poor divide and its effect on the economy are worrying them. Apart from these aspects, they have chosen the strategic path of belligerence, wolf diplomacy, and confrontation on all possible areas of conflict. Their strategies of belligerence, expansionism, Belt and Road Initiative without being sensitive to the sovereignty of other nations, have changed global perspectives on China. The CCP and the PLA are scared of the democratic forces of the world and within China too. They are too sensitive to protests and dissent in their country. The world had witnessed hyper reaction at Tiananmen Square in 1989.
Goa Chronicle: What steps Indian Government must take to counter information warfare, fake narrative, and propaganda and influence operations by foreign powers that are on a rise for the past two years?
Lt. Gen. Gurmit Singh: This silent warfare on the minds of everyone in the world has been continuous and going on unseen. The warfare on the minds, and the perceptions, “Soch Vichar ka Kshetra”, is absolutely under offensive and attacks by the evil powers in the world today. Fake and false information, activities by the lobbies, media, and Psychological War by China and many other powers supporting terrorism have been ongoing for long.
Radicalization, misinformation, and disinformation have been their tools. The cognitive domain of everyone is under attack. The nation, society, and the citizens should be aware that our cognitive space is under attack. False narratives are weaponized in the area of the cognitive domain. The mission statements by the evil powers and the way they encroach into the mind of a common citizen have been the biggest threat of our current times. Therefore, as a nation, as a government, and as a society, we must ensure that we de-radicalize the affected people. We should have counter-radicalization campaigns, counter-narratives, and counter-propaganda capabilities. Especially those narratives that are anchored on anti-nation, anti-government, anti-society domain must be conducted on war footings.
In 2020, China had aggressively activated its proxies and lobbies. The Pakistani narratives are anchored on fundamentalism, extremism, and jihad, and they are still active on it. We must plan well-organized systems and processes as a nation and society to ensure that domains we protect our citizens from these attacks on our collective cognitive domain. The threat and challenges on our perceptions of truth, reality, and facts must be handled well and fight this Grey Zone warfare too. It is deliberate and well-orchestrated by forces that are part of radicalization and Chinese who are using psychological and media warfare as part of their influence operations.
Goa Chronicle: Should the Indian Government invest more to counter this kind of influence operations?
Lt. Gen. Gurmit Singh: I absolutely agree with you. Anti-India forces aim to ensure that India does not come up in the Committee of Nations. These are acts of hybrid and grey zone warfare and are not conventional and traditional. India is fighting the COVID-19 pandemic effectively. Chinese and the other forces engaging in these unconventional warfare techniques have invested immensely. We must have a pro-active and pre-emptive strategy on how to combat these evil designs which are being affected in the cognitive domains.
Goa Chronicle: What steps we must take to be future-ready to deal with any spectrum of warfare as a nation?
Lt. Gen. Gurmit Singh: Usually, we do not invest in the future but are more concerned on the past. The spectrum of warfare is evolving and changing every moment. The warfare is heading towards cyber, space, Artificially Intelligence, and Nano-technology. In the Armenia-Azerbaijan war, the world had witnessed a subtle change in warfare techniques, wherein drones, UAVs, and loitering munitions played an active part. The formats, methods, and domain of warfare are changing. The Israel-Palestine conflict and its lessons in precision, targeting, defence through Iron Dome Air Defence System are shaping the future of warfare. Everyone is aware of where the warfare is heading; towards a grey zone, unconventional and unrestricted areas.
Chinese attempt on bioweapon in the form of the Wuhan Virus is also one of the changing profiles of warfare. From a military perspective, they seem to have targeted the lungs of every other nation. More than three million deaths in the World and more than three lakh deaths in our nation is the wake-up call. Artificial Intelligence, Swarming and Nano-technology are going to make warfare a very complex issue. In the unfolding dynamics of Iran and Israel conflicts, AI, satellite communication, precision shooting, and targeted assassinations are also warning to the world.
Goa Chronicle: What is your message to the Nation as we fight this pandemic?
Lt. Gen. Gurmit Singh: In the war against this Chinese Virus, the message to the Nation is that we have lost many of our citizens, but at the same time, we must fight integrated and with jointness. We must respond to this challenge and provide relief to our citizens, and our society. We must support the Government in its efforts. It is my conviction that we will win this war on the COVID-19 Pandemic. The need is to be positive at this hour. This is a strategic opportunity to contribute in this challenging time of the Nation. Those attempting to exploit this opportunity by black marketing, manufacturing fake medicines, and creating false and fake narratives must be checkmated by the authorities and society.
I would also like to compliment many social initiatives that have responded in these critical times. We must support our health warriors and the front-line workers, who have been continuously fighting this battle for the past eighteen months. Losing nearly three lakh citizens is just not acceptable. The war on Covid-19 is not over yet. The second wave of the pandemic is not the last challenge. We need to be prepared for future challenges. We shall win these challenges.
DISCLAIMER: This article reflects author’s view point. Goa Chronicle may or may not subscribe to views of the author