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Terrorists misusing tech, ethos of open societies: Jaishankar

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Terrorists are misusing technology and ethos of open societies, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said in a note of warning for the free world on Saturday, a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for uprooting the pen-wielding threats to national security along with gun-toting ones.

Jaishankar said that the “terrorist groups, their ideological fellow travellers, particularly in open and liberal societies, and ‘lone wolf’ attackers” had significantly enhanced their capabilities by gaining access to new and emerging technologies in recent years. “They use technology and money, and most importantly, the ethos of open societies, to attack freedom, tolerance and progress,” the external affairs minister said, while delivering a keynote address at the plenary session of the special meeting of the United Nations Security Council’s counter-terrorism committee in New Delhi.

He announced that India would be making a voluntary contribution of half a million dollars in the UN Trust Fund for Counter Terrorism this year, to augment its efforts in providing capacity building support to Member States in preventing and countering the threat of terrorism.

Read | Global efforts must to stop terrorists abusing tech: UN

He went on to say that the internet and social media platforms had turned into potent instruments in the toolkit of terrorist and militant groups for spreading propaganda, radicalisation and conspiracy theories aimed at destabilizing societies.

The external affairs minister’s words of caution about misuse of technology and ethos of open societies came a day after Modi stressed on the need of “defeating all forms of Naxalism, be it gun-toting or pen-wielding.”

Read | Terrorism one of gravest threats to humanity, says S Jaishankar at UN meet

Jaishankar on Saturday said that the technological innovations and breakthroughs of the past two decades had been transformative in the way the world functions in every aspect. The new and emerging technologies – from virtual private networks, and encrypted messaging services to blockchain and virtual currencies – offered a very promising future for a wide array of economic and social benefits for humankind. “However,” he cautioned, “there is a flip side especially where terrorism is concerned”.

He said the new technologies had also thrown up new challenges for the governments and regulatory bodies due to their potential vulnerability for misuse by non-state actors, given the very nature of some of these technologies and the nascent regulatory environment.

“More recently, these terrorist groups have been using unmanned aerial platforms, such as drones and quadcopters for cross border trafficking of drugs and arms and for carrying out terrorist attacks,” Jaishankar said at the meeting of the UNSC counterterrorism committee’s special meeting. He was referring to use of drones by the terrorists and the narco-traffickers from Pakistan for surveillance as well as to smuggle weapons and drugs to India. He, however, mentioned that not only India, the drones were posing threats to other nations too.

In Africa, he said, drones have been used by the terrorist groups to monitor movements of security forces and even of UN peacekeepers, making them vulnerable to terrorist attacks. A few months ago, terrorists launched cross-border drone attacks on the UAE and Saudi Arabia targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure, which led to loss of lives and injuries, including to Indian nationals there, added the external affairs minister.

Jaishankar, during his visit to New Zealand earlier this month, had noted that democratic societies should be cognisant of the possibilities that the very freedoms that define them could be misused.

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