The advent of Artificial Intelligence (AI), with its potential for disrupting regional or global stability, can have a significant adverse impact on peace and harmony. As per South-Western Army Commander Lieutenant General Alok Singh Kler, India aims to bring AI into the military by 2025, which will undoubtedly distort the regional balance. Therefore, in the race of acquiring arms and nuclear dominance over potential rivals, South Asia might be on the curve of another catastrophe.
Nuclear security and deterrence can find itself in a shattered state of affairs. Experts at RAND stressed that with the increasing impetus to use AI for strategic objectives, the potential for calamity will only increase with time. AI might even lead humans towards disastrous decisions.
For instance, the dependence on ‘AI advisors’ and the presumption of believing in AI capabilities more than strategically executed facts, can lure countries into making mistakes that escalate the risk of war. AI-based systems can produce more information about an adversary, with greater accuracy and speed, and locate a target much more efficiently, factors which may lead to injudicious decisions. The other probability is that the system might miscalculate as it is a human-made program and vulnerable to mistakes. In either case, it is clear that AI established decision support systems cannot be wholly trusted.
Moreover, because of extreme scalability and lower cost with respect to conventional methods, the number of attacks will increase eventually. The attacks carried out through AI systems would be better targeted and more effective, thereby exploiting and wrecking the vulnerabilities of the adversary.
In February 2018, the Indian defense ministry constituted a task force to implement strategic measures for AI in defense. It was asked to make policies and strategies to enhance the use of AI in the defense sector and how it can be implemented. Later on, the ministry established a council named the Defense Artificial Intelligence Council (DAIC). The task of this council, under the chairmanship of the Indian defense minister, was to dispense strategic supervision towards the adaption of AI. Besides, India has assigned Rs.100 crores to the DAIC from the ministerial budget.
It is evident that India is paving the way to operate AI in the military, which is a significant threat to Pakistan, given the ongoing conflict at the LoC and Kashmir. As for Pakistan, it is nowhere near in adopting AI for defense and security.
Pakistan’s closest ally, China, is moving heavily towards AI. According to the Financial Times, China’s publications on AI were higher than any other country in the European Union in 2016. The former chairperson of the Alphabet, Eric Schmidt, predicted that China would be leading the AI industry in 2025. Additionally, China’s spending on AI will increase to $70 billion by 2020, said United States’ Air Force General Vera Linn Jamieson. The UK and the Pentagon have announced $1.4 billion and $2 billion, respectively.
According to Artificial Intelligence in the Military Market the AI market was estimated to be $6.26 Billion in 2017 and is predicted to reach up to approximately $19 Billion by 2025. The colossal figures and recent developments by growing countries mirror that how the world is transposing towards AI.
Given the enormous shift to AI, the process will give space to the action-reaction cycle. Furthermore, military applications such as surveillance, intelligence, and reconnaissance (ISR) on the border, underwater, or in the air, could be exploited. The coalescence of ISR with effective defenses could be persuasive in determining a strike first on strategic targets.
The integrity and confidentiality of information or data is an imperative asset for any military organization, and it can be manipulated through AI. The machine can infiltrate into the adversary’s system and swindle data, and it is less expensive and practical than contemporary methods or techniques.
However, it is also not a piece of cake for AI-equipped countries to utilize; there are several challenges to consider while adopting AI-based military applications. Considerations include compromise of transparency because of the complex algorithms and functions, b) vulnerability to adversarial attacks as the model can be deceived if the attacker is already aware of the system, c) difficulty in establishing data collection procedures because the existing data is not sorted with respect to the AI approach, and d) lack of infrastructure within the country.
No state or country can take advantage of AI without its potential adversaries following in its footsteps. The process of competition and gaining superiority would be highly destabilizing for the region or the world. Simply put, whoever acquires the benefits of AI or emerging technologies will be having the edge over other countries in the region, and influential countries could exploit developing countries with the help of technological advancement. It would be a new kind of exploitation; the medieval times will return but in a technical manner, more or less.
Therefore, if India or any country in the region succeeds in empowering itself with AI, the result would be an upset of nuclear stability in South Asia.