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October 15, 2019

‘Cyberspace weapon of first resort in adversarial relations between states’


October 15, 2019

Islamabad:Dr Richard Wilcox, Cyber Mediation Senior Adviser, Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, Geneva, Switzerland, has said that cyberspace was the weapon of first resort in adversarial relations between countries when there is dire need of Confidence-Building Measures (CBMs).

Dr Wilcox was addressing a talk on ‘Regional Cooperation in Cyberspace: opportunities and challenges’ organised by Institute of Regional Studies here Monday. General (r) Talat Masood was in the chair.

Dr Wilcox said that this develops framework for CBMs. He said his is one of the biggest organisations working on mediation and dialogue. He said that cybercrime and conflict are interesting areas but do not find place for mediation. He said Cyber Conflict is part of warfare under Clausewitzian definition of war.

Dr Wilcox said that in sheer defensive relationship, mediation is limited. In deterrence relationship, situation is terrible but there is no need to talk. He said in communication relationship, there is need to negotiate and Cyber Conflict falls in this last category. He said that mediation is most required in communication to solve or stabilise the situation. He said that US decided to attack on Iran after attack on British oil tanker through cyber weapons. He said Britain initially used the same against Libya.

He said any country claiming to have this capacity needs to have presence in other’s cyber system beforehand. He said that we also engage in earlier CBMs. It is like hacking in private cyber structures, he observed.

Adam Cooper Senior Programme Manager (Cyber-Mediation) said that there are few cyber conflict agreements like the one between China and USA prohibiting theft of intellectual property rights and joint hotline dialogue that worked. He said bilateral agreements hold and work for some time to handle a situation. But there is a lot of difficulty to have regional cyber arrangements in Middle East, East Asia and South Asia.

Brigadier (r) Dr Tughral Yamin from National University of Science and Technology referred to Kenyan leader Jomo Kenyatta who had stated that there could be Cyber Pearl Harbour also. He said Pakistan and India relations are at its lowest ebb. Dr Yamin favoured Track-1.5 and Track-II dialogues. He said that judges in both countries can use space world to mitigate the situation in South Asia. Similarly, intelligence agencies can also engage, he opined.

Gen Masood said that arms warfare depends upon education level though the arms race in any case would continue.

In the question hour, a female participant referred to hacking of Pakistani and Indian websites in August. Dr Wilcox said that we should tolerate each other’s presence in the respective systems in cyber world. He said China-US relations ripped apart due to trade and non-cyber disputes. Replying a query, he said that nuclear cyber discussion is very hard to secure. He said that any miscommunication could be massively provocative and bring in a reaction.

Dr Rukhsana Qamber, President IRS, said that though it is not her view, nor that of IRS, many people here do not want to talk with Afghans because they have attacked us in the past despite our extended hospitality spread over decades to them. She thanked the participants for a lively discussion.

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