Information, propaganda and media-contours in Indian national security

Dr. Manavik Raj

From the Vietnam war, and the Arab Spring to the Ukraine conflict, the dimension of war has taken on new connotations in security studies. The two world wars were fought with brute force, where military heft was the norm but currently, the nature of warfare has evolved.

While powerful states, like the U.S, Russia and China, enjoy strong military prowess, middle powers have challenges adapting to global conflicts. The wars fought on the battlefield are now fought with advanced cyber technologies, satellites and digital systems. This has led countries to adopt a new security policy framework.

Information and propaganda aided by new media technologies create conflicts beyond most governments’ control. The non-traditional security conflicts are now key security challenges, affecting most countries.

Information, Propaganda and Media

Propaganda and its studies have been a conflicting subject widely debated among scholars. During the Second World War, Joseph Goebbels used the techniques of propaganda to achieve the mission of the Nazi regime. The course of modern propaganda spread further across Europe and the U.S, where governments and corporations effectively used it in the marketplace of ideas.

Over the decades, advertising, public relations and news organizations have grown into billion-dollar industries well integrated into the markets. Noam Chomsky in his seminal book ‘Manufacturing Consent’, focuses on media organizations and their consolidation over power, influence and profits.

The ‘seventies’ witnessed a huge disparity between the West and many developing economies. Besides economic inequality, inequity of information and access to unbiased news networks were key issues. Aspects, such as information asymmetry, cross-border news flow, the role of news agencies and the control of information had opened a debate across governments.

The news barriers between non-aligned nations and the west had stirred up a controversy at ‘The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). In 1980, ‘Many Voices One World’, also known as the MacBride report was the first of its kind that sought a debate towards the establishment of a New World Information Communication Order (NWICO). 

In the present times, institutions and laws have certainly evolved but the policy matrix involving the regulation of these industries is mired with challenges. Media technologies have impacted the world where disruption and conflicts outpace policy rationale. In this context, the role of national security, the concept of deterrence and sovereignty has taken a new incarnation.

Big data, finance and advanced technologies are issues changing the relations between states. The technological disruption has the potential to impact countries, economies and the security paradigm at large. With Artificial Intelligence and Quantum Computing, the traditional security approach (defence and nuclear power) is not the only factor but cyberspace and its impact on countries are critical issues. 

Cybersecurity, Data and AI – Global Trends

The Industrial Revolution 4.0 has brought challenges where cybersecurity, encryption and privacy issues remain unresolved. Cyberspace being a level playing field is not restricted to governments, industries or citizens but also to non-state actors and terror groups that leverage opportunities via loopholes.

Tech and internet giants have enabled great access to the virtual space, reaching beyond a country’s jurisdiction where legal challenges remain. Personal data possibly more valuable than oil has led to the growth of the information economy. According to a 2022 McKinsey report, the cybersecurity market is estimated at over 100 billion dollars for service providers.

Countries like China have invested heavily in (AI) Artificial Intelligence. By 2025, the country expects to have a breakthrough in AI applications across sectors aiming to target the industry of over 400 billion Yuan. While the United States and China are heading towards competition on the technological front, various countries in Asia are catching up.

India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan have released policy papers on AI strategy encompassing areas such as investments, data regulation and applications in key sectors. The tech rivalry could push varied operational policies setting standards in uneven directions that could complicate interoperability, affecting innovation in most developing nations.

The Quad country leaders had launchedThe Common Statement of Principles on Critical Technology Supply Chains, by reemphasizing and prioritizing options. The Ukraine war shows the dependence of developing countries (oil, semiconductors and key agricultural commodities) on global markets, which directly impacts manufacturing and critical supply chains.     

India’s Case – A Way Forward

The media discourse on national security policy is of prime importance but it’s still an evolving forum in India. The Indian media landscape is beset with challenges where policymaking remains a gargantuan exercise. Many issues shed light on the conflicts that ensue in the nation.

Prime time television and the deteriorating standards have increased political polarization among the public. In rough times, countries such as Pakistan and China have taken undue advantage of India’s position. The technological gap in the use of radio, telecommunications spectrum, satellite systems, submarines, guided ammunition and biological weapons remain stumbling blocks.

The fusion of Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) technologies coupled with Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) are new trends over the last few decades. Technological warfare predominantly the prerogative of the West is now shifting to the East, where China has an upper hand. 

Some of the top companies in the West (Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook and Google) have a market cap of over 3 trillion dollars. Indian policymakers could work on strategies by signing a memorandum of understanding (MOUs) with like-minded allies (governments and corporations) to safeguard Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), and refocus its objectives on technology absorption.


India’s challenges are many but the government could gear up by allocating more to Research and Development (R & D) (new technologies and media policy research). A strong consensus between the government, academia, think tanks, the private sector and policymakers can lead to robust data and tech policies, where threats to other strategic areas (both civil and military) are minimized.

India should up the ante at the UN Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) and leverage the G7 forum over Cybersecurity and AI policies. The COVID pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine conflict are proof, that the world leaders step up diplomatic efforts and work towards resolute solutions.              

Dr. Manavik Raj is a policy analyst, journalist and media academician based out of Bangalore, India. He teaches Contemporary Geopolitics and International Communication. He also contributes to various publications and think tanks in India.

Views are the author’s alone and do not reflect those of Qrius and/or any of its staff.

Cybersecurity strategyjournalismNational securityPolitical Influence