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GIS – necessary tool to fight asymmetric warfare

New Delhi, India: The fourth session of the ongoing GeoIntelligence Asia 2011 discussed ‘Asymmetric warfare – Geospatial requirement to counter threats to internal security’. Sanjay Sahay, IPS, Inspector General of Police, Police Computer Wing Bangalore, India, Mark Ashwell, Vice President, DigitalGlobe, Unites States and Col Richard Sundharam, General Manager – Defence NIIT-GIS Ltd, India, were the speakers of the session which was chaired by Shankar Baruah, Director General, Assam Police, India. Inaugurating the session, Baruah pointed out terrain as one of the major problems for the Indian security forces in dealing with asymmetric warfare. 

Speaking first, Sahay outlined the importance of maps in today’s environment and said that they are no longer just dots on paper, “Maps of today is the geospatial information as the requirements are much more complex yet precise.” He then explained why asymmetric warfare is so popular among terrorists or anti-social elements. “The crux of this warfare is mobility and surprise element. Their objective is to force us to spread our resources so that we become vulnerable to their attacks,” said Sahay. Talking about how geospatial technology can aid in ensuring homeland security, he said, “Homeland security covers prevention, protection, response and recovery. Geospatial products and intelligence play a key role in homeland department’s preparation,” adding, “Intelligence can go wrong but geospatial intelligence cannot go wrong.” He too stressed on importance of terrain mapping and explained how imagery can aid in ensuring security. “Security of critical infrastructure and mass transportation systems are very important in solving major problem of ours. If we get an imagery of 20cm or less of resolution, we can solve almost 90 per cent law and order problem of the world.” He then talked about the need to have a standard international framework which everybody can follow, “Having common standards help in reducing redundancy and confusion.” He ended his presentation by emphasising on a paradigm shift in the thought process of the internal security apparatus.

Sahay was followed by Ashwell who spoke about ‘Geoint requirements for asymmetric warfare’. Explaining asymmetric warfare, Ashwell said, “It is a departure from conventional tactics,” adding, “We first need to understand the nature of the problem.” He described the warfare as a ‘wicked problem’  and then talked about the ways to solve it. “People resolve to this warfare as they do not have an alternate resolution,” he said, adding, “Wicked problems need different approach. For example, in a crisis situation, there is a need for commanders who can take swift decisions.” Explaining how geospatial technology can aid in dealing with such problems, he said, “Geospatial intelligence platform is a platform wherein we can ask questions. And asking questions is important for understanding a problem. After all, a leader needs to understand a problem.” He further elaborated the advantages of this technology, “People do not readily share information but in dealing with wicked problem, you need to share information. This is where this technology can aid you.” He also spoke about the need to collaborate with commercial organsiations to fight this unconventional warfare, “There is a need to provide technology where you can share data. Only then can you build partnerships. And partnerships, sharing of information are essential to defeat this problem.” He also praised India for having highly educated people and said, “These young people need to be nurtured to share the information.”

The last speaker of the session was Col Sundharam, who spoke about ‘Creating a common operating picture for internal security operations.’ He began his presentation by speaking about the problems that India faces like Naxalites, insurgencies in North East and Kashmir. He also spoke about the operation complexity that are involved in counter-insurgency operations like coping with the situation as and when they occur, reducing response time etc. He then talked about the operational challenges that are involved in tackling these operations like tracking and storing data, collection and management of data, identifying vulnerabilities and developing plans. “Geospatial technology can help us in integrating and analysing a situation, creating common picture for decision makers and executioners and aiding in carrying out a coordinated action,” he said. He talked at length about common operating picture (COP). “COP assists in achieving situational awareness (SA). Effective SA involves certain challenges like it should be easy to use, access to GIS data should be from various sources, it should have the ability to perform basic analysis and have the capability to share data with the right person.”

The session was followed by an active participation of the members in the question-answer session.

Source: Our Correspondent