Synergia Conclave 2019 - Inaugural Session

Leaders and experts from around the world converged at the Synergia Conclave to discuss “The Future of Security-Beyond the Curve from October 17th to October 19th. The conclave was inaugurated by distinguished thought-leaders.

During a period of geopolitical uncertainty around the world, leaders and experts from around the world converged at the Synergia Conclave to discuss “The Future of Security-Beyond the Curve from October 17th to October 19th

The conclave was inaugurated by distinguished thought-leaders including CN Ashwath Narayan, Deputy Chief Minister of Karnataka, MK Narayanan, Former National Security Advisor to GOI & Governor of West Bengal, Satish Jha, IPS, Chairman NTRO, TM Vijay Bhaskar, IAS, Chief Secretary of Karnataka, PS Raghavan, Chairman, National Security Advisory Board GOI and Sanjay Jaju, IAS, Joint Secretary, Department of Defence Production GOI. 

The Founder and President of Synergia Foundation, Tobby Simon kickstarted the event by providing a larger perspective of what the future of security would look like. In an asymmetric world, world leaders should seriously consider the ramifications of what security represents for nation-states. He stated that given the geopolitical uncertainty that exists around so many facets, discussions regarding the future of security are extremely relevant. Welcoming the participants, Tobby Simon, reiterated the mantra of Synergia- to be futuristic in our outlook and seek answers for problems which lie in the future, invisible beyond the curve.  “We were the pioneers in starting the debate on topics like counterfeit currency, supply chain disruptions, cybersecurity, pandemics, the Dark and Deep Web amongst others. We are futuristic in our outlook as we want our children to inherit a safer and better world. Our Conclaves our pride and our motivation and we seek subjects which are topical, relevant and difficult to understand as not much is known about themWe live in an asymmetrical world as was clearly shown a few days back when a few drones and missiles disrupted 5% of global oil supply and raised oil prices by $ 17. The best of economic managers and finance ministers will be hard placed to handle their finances and balance budgets when such major disruptions strike straight out of the blue.  Here lies the importance to be prepared for all such contingencies”. Further highlighting the mission assigned by Synergia Foundation to itself, he said a think-tank like Synergia endeavours to undertake this role by flagging critical issues, nurturing non-partisan debates and put up our findings for the Government at state and national levels as also the academia, industry and opinion-makers. In a very humble way, this is our contribution to make the world a safer place by our small acts.

MK Narayanan, Former National Security Advisor to GOI & Governor of West Bengal commended the Synergia team for their effort to get the conclave off the ground. He also noted that at the end of the three days, the thought-leaders present would go back a lot wiser. While acknowledging the unique role being played by Synergia he highlighted that like most of the delegates present, he too was a regular invitee to a series of conferences around the world.  However, in the range and depth of theme and subject chosen for deliberations, their topicality and the quality of experts chosen for interventions, Synergia stands with the best in the world. Synergia Conclaves have over the years drawn a loyal set of thinkers and experts who return year after year to ideate and contribute.  His advise for all the attendees was that this was a great opportunity for all the attendees, representing many countries, to go back and spread the ideas spoken here. Predicting a grim security scenario in the future, he remarked that the theme for the conclave this year is particularly at a crucial time as we are slipping into the dark ages.

Hon’ble Deputy Chief Minister of Karnataka, Shri CN Ashwath Narayan, complemented Team Synergia for convoking such a galaxy of imminent thinkers in Bangalore.  He acknowledged that Synergia has been doing pioneering work in strategic thinking as indicated by the 18 countries represented and over 60 speakers present to discuss a whole range of issues over 28 sessions. The presence of so many foreign experts is a testament to the global reach and reputation of Synergia. He expressed his fervent hope that over the next three days, the participants would explore human security from a 360-degree perspective – law enforcement, defence, industry etc, mutually share knowledge gained and exchange views to come up with solutions to problems our countries are likely to confront in future. Govts and academia must adapt to evolving challenges which are mutating on a daily basis, collectively address them and find solutions. He summed up by stating that the conclave was one of the best platforms to “provide a 360 degree on human security”.

Satish Chandra Jha, IPS, Chairman NTRO, warned that the “future of conflict will not be a conventional war; it will be in space or in the cyber world. We will be better off if we begin preparing for these possibilities.” Pointing at the aptness of the Foundation name, ‘Synergia’, he said that Synergy is the need of the hour-in all walks of life and especially in security. This is easier said than done and let’s hope that sometime in future, we will be able to achieve synergy in our efforts across the board. Giving an insight into the origin of NTR, he explained the overall structure of the intelligence organisation in the country- internal(IB), external (R&AW) and technical (NTRO). NTRO’s 15 year-long journey has been arduous but today the NTRO was in a position to meet the ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) needs of the strategic community. Since it is a purely technologically oriented agency, it has over the last 4-5 years synergised its efforts with the industry and the academia to confront the numerous challenges. He was optimistic of the future as he felt that Indian brains were up to the task in finding cutting edge solutions to our ISR challenges so that taking stock of what we have, we can look beyond the curve to face challenges of tomorrow and beyond. The future will not be confined to conventional arenas but will be more in the cyberworld and space. He ended with the fervent hope that ideas generated by this august gathering mature into real-time decisions and get implemented upon, not be confined to bounded reports gathering dust.

TM Vijay Bhaskar, IAS, Chief Secretary of Karnataka spoke about how non-state actors can affect the security of a nation or even a small city or state. He said, “Distinction between external and internal security has gone down.” He added that Bangalore is an ideal location to conduct the conclave as the city is one of the leaders of IT and information technology. He stated, “Bangalore should be at the forefront of discussing cybersecurity and cyberwarfare. We were amongst the first states to set up cybersecurity infrastructure right up to the police station level. We have to think about how cybersecurity will impact our financial transactions and information tech will impact financial transactions in the country and the state.” He also spoke of vulnerability of a city like Bangalore to Cyber-attacks citing the example of the water supply which is entirely based on pumps bringing Cauvery water and a strike on the power supply could render the city bereft of any water. While Bangalore maybe thousands of miles from our land frontiers, we have a role in the physical security of the nation also as our large coastline is equally vulnerable to infiltration and attacks. He complimented the Synergia Foundation on the selection of the theme of the Conclave and said that it could not have been more topical and relevant.

PS Raghavan, Chairman, National Security Advisory Board GOI,  spoke about how the challenges within security landscape  are intricate and immense especially given the unprecedented flux in global interactions- US -Russia ties are at their nadir, several proxy wars,  intensifying sanctions and tariff regimes strangling global trade and everyone is playing the zero-sum game. There is increasing competition in the global community leading to stress and turmoil. Irresponsible nuclear/ near nuclear states who threaten the very existence of our planet.  “In India, this creates a need for some difficult compromises that are not necessarily in our best interests.” The nature of military conflict has transformed and technology has become the game-changer of our times. Social media has now become a powerful tool for terrorism and counter-terrorism. 5G goes much beyond voice and data as we have got used to in mobile technology- it is by itself a revolution and will change the way we look at the world.   The US-China trade war is touching the entire world,  and this inter-dependency was further highlighted by the drone attack in Saudi Arabia, which lays bare the vulnerability of critical infrastructure to nameless attack.  A single, tactical attack has an impact worldwide. He wondered, “Can collective thinking and global collaboration bring change?” Noting the mix of experts from every field present in the Conclave, he remarked that views and recommendations forged here could have a much wider reach.

Sanjay Jaju, IAS, Joint Secretary, Department of Defence Production GOI spoke at length about efforts of his department to modernise Indian armed forces.  Defence production is also a capital of the nation and can become an enabler to reach higher levels of the economy.  He elaborated that defence cannot be left to large behemoths of the traditional defence industry but needs fresh ideas and initiatives from the private sector. The rules are undergoing changes quickly to level the playing field for the private sector to play a larger role in defence.  The Ministry of Defence has also reached out to small players, especially start-ups to get them involved in defence sector. He stated that the digital transformation of defence was going to be critical and should now be thought in terms of technologies such as artificial intelligence. Therefore, he noted, India needs to equip the forces to fight future war with smart ammunition and smart weapons.  He also brought out the fact that India is working towards increasing its defence exports sevenfold and contribute at least $ 5 billion towards the 5 Trillion economy. He summed up his department’s vision for the future through 5 Es- Equipment based on state of the art digital technology, Enablers-the government attracting FDI by introducing liberal rules, facilitating blooming of Indian designs and IPRs and supporting private industry to set up facilities, Export- India need to change the paradigm from one of the largest importers of arms to one of the largest exporters.  The defence industry is now worth $2 billion but needs to contribute at least $ 5B to the $ 5 trillion economy and lastly Education- we need skilful hands and we must exploit our demographic dividend to produce world-class equipment for us and our friends.