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Cyber Security Challenges in Pakistan: An Assessment



The recent hacking of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) system, which resulted in the leakage of confidential data on the dark web, has once again raised questions on the effectiveness cybersecurity response system in Pakistan 1. However, it’s not a new incident. In January 2021, Sophos Labs (A private cyber threat intelligence firm) report made some extremely alarming revelations2. According to the report, there are trojanized versions of Android Apps and websites such as the Pakistan Citizen Portal App, published by the Government of Pakistan on Google Play Store. These sites and apps contain malware to steal and exfiltrate sensitive data and information such as CNIC numbers, passport details, usernames, passwords of Facebook accounts, can also read private messages, GPS data, and record phone calls. Hackers deployed the torjanized versions of legitimate apps and websites for the cyber espionage and covert surveillance of Pakistani citizens. Since its introduction in the early 1990s, the Internet industry has progressed rapidly3. Pakistani society has gradually built up its footprints in cyberspace and resultantly its dependence on Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). However, despite this increasing reliance on ICT platforms, Cyber Space is still ungoverned and poses a multitude of challenges to the national security of Pakistan. Hostile agencies are taking full benefit of the unguarded cyberspace of Pakistan to undermine the national security of the country. EU DisinfoLab report is a case study example of such targeted online campaigns against Pakistan4. Rising cyber-attacks against the government and private websites, fake news, targeted disinformation campaigns, phishing attacks, Denial of Service (DoS) and Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks are some facets of cybersecurity challenges confronted by the State.
March 2022
It is a pleasure for me to introduce this inaugural Issue on Science Diplomacy Perspectives’.
The Issue comes at a time when the world is gradually recovering from the COVID-19
pandemic. The recovery comes on the back of extraordinary scientific and sociotechnical
achievements in developing vaccines and devising emergency health security measures.
This marks an epoch which underscores the value of creating a facilitating interface
between science, policy, and society. Scientists and Diplomats, by virtue of their
profession, act at the interface of innovation and negotiation a pathway for societal
progress. This interdisciplinary engagement has the capacity to deliver truly sustainable
solutions for global challenges such as food security, climate change and protection of the
global commons.
This Issue is an effort to showcase academic efforts, practitioner experiences and thematic
exchanges between interdisciplinary stakeholders. At a time when technological
advancements are outpacing regulatory structures and broader societal discourse, science
diplomacy provides a perfect platform for multistakeholder dialogue. Pakistan’s approach
to scientific innovation has been driven by its desire to achieve socio-economic
development. Some articles in the issue touch upon our ‘Atoms for Sustainable
Development’ pledge, through which organizations such as the Pakistan Atomic Energy
Commission are actively harnessing nuclear energy to attain various targets under the
theme of Sustainable Development Goals.
Similarly, some articles expand upon the theme of emerging technologies and the necessity
for multilateral engagement to ensure equitable access and reduce silos between various
stakeholders. This Issue also includes an event report on ‘Lahore Science Mela’, a
heartening Science Popularization initiative centred on engaging youth on the wonders of
I want to congratulate and thank all authors & editors for contributing to this pioneering
initiative. Furthermore, the editorial and peer review support provided by the OIC
Standing Committee on Scientific & Technological Collaboration (COMSTECH) and the
Particle Team at LUMS is also commendable.
We plan to make ‘Science Diplomacy Perspectives’ a permanent publication platform for
science diplomacy experts, practitioners and enthusiasts.
Sohail Mahmood
Foreign Secretary
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Science Diplomacy Division is actively working on
building pathways that connect the often-siloed stakeholders of innovation and diplomacy.
Science diplomacy as a niche practice has allowed a new avenue for scientists, diplomats,
and policy makers to bridge gaps, create synergies and ideate inclusive models of growth.
Through this Issue on ‘Science Diplomacy Perspectives’, we are providing a scholarly
template to academics and practitioners for pitching interdisciplinary ideas, providing
relevant science advice and highlighting key issues related to the science-policy-society
In this pioneering attempt, we were pleased with the diversity and quantity of articles
received. As the contours of science diplomacy are still being explored and its definitional
typologies are also under active discussion, we have tried to provide a South-South voice
to the landscape. Our featured articles range from themes such as new and emerging
technologies, science advice mechanisms, regulatory aspects, science popularization and
academic networking.
The field of science diplomacy is advancing rapidly, from academic and practitioners’
perspective. It is vital to reconcile both approaches to create substantive outcomes. In some
of the articles included in the Issue, the role of science diplomacy in providing a rubric for
regulation of emerging technologies has been discussed. Such an approach is adding to the
application of science diplomacy in the multilateral governance of science.
In many ways, the intersection of technology and international relations has shaped the
economic and political progress of many countries. Some articles in the issue discuss the
impact of this convergence on nuclear and cyber technologies.
Many research institutions in Pakistan have benefitted from international collaborations.
We have also featured articles covering this crucial aspect of this scholarly connection and
the tangible impact that it has created.
I hope this Issue provides an initial impetus for creating a regular interdisciplinary and
science diplomacy driven platform for scientists, diplomats, and policymakers. Subsequent
to this publication, we are making ‘Science Diplomacy Perspectives’ a regular publishing
Mohammad Kamran Akhtar
Director General (Science Diplomacy)
Science Diplomacy Perspectives
Inaugural Issue: March 2022
Mohammad Kamran Akhtar, Director General (Science Diplomacy)
Associate Editor(s)
Muhammad Adeel, Assistant Director (Science Diplomacy)
The Particle Team, LUMS (
Editorial Correspondence
Editorial correspondence and requests for reproducing part or entirety of the Issue
can be addressed to: Science Diplomacy Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
Constitutional Avenue, Islamabad, Pakistan
o Email:
The views expressed in the Special Issue are those of authors and not necessarily
those of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or the organizations that the authors belong
© Science Diplomacy Perspectives 2022
Fusion Science Diplomacy: Way Forward ............................................................................. 6
Impact of New and Emerging Technologies a Science Diplomacy Perspective ...................11
Emerging technologies: an unavoidable topic for developing countries .................................20
Technological Challenges in the Way of Nuclear Risks Reduction and Strategic Stability in
South Asia ...........................................................................................................................23
Human Gut Microbiome and Impact on Health Security ......................................................45
Advances in drug delivery: A Multifaceted collaborative outcome ........................................54
Agriculture 4.0 .....................................................................................................................58
Pakistan-China Cooperation: A [Nuclear] Regulator Perspective .........................................61
Regulation Approach for Geo-Engineering Technologies .....................................................71
Towards a Science Diplomacy Typology for Regulation of Agricultural Biotechnology ........74
Cyber Security Challenges in Pakistan: An Assessment ........................................................78
Perspectives of Product Lifecycle Management and SWOT Analysis for Science Diplomacy 90
Academic Networkinga critical step in sustaining scientific research in Pakistan ..............96
The Reluctant Science Diplomat ..........................................................................................98
Science Diplomacy- Role of International Center for Chemical and Biological Sciences,
University of Karachi, Pakistan -An Example of Sustainable Cooperation across the Globe
.......................................................................................................................................... 100
Science for Humanity ......................................................................................................... 113
Lahore Science Mela 2019 .................................................................................................. 113
A Platform Economy Approach to Evaluating Science Diplomacy...................................... 127
New and Emerging
Fusion Science Diplomacy: Way Forward
Dr. Shahid Hussain (Director, Pakistan Tokamak Plasma Research Institute, Pakistan
Atomic Energy Commission)
Nuclear Fusion
Fusion is the most extensively studied idea for a low-carbon primary energy source. Fusion
energy could provide a future source of non-carbon emitting electricity generation for the
world and could play a vital role in the global transition to a net zero carbon emission
electricity infrastructure. It can be a new and ultimate source that can deliver base-load
electricity and complement intermittent low-carbon energy sources that are already being
Nuclear fusion is the process by which two light atoms merging to form products with a
total mass less than that of the original atoms. The mass difference is converted into energy
according to Einstein’s famous formula. The fusion reaction that is easiest to exploit is
between the hydrogen isotopes, deuterium, and tritium, with the reaction products being
helium nuclei and neutrons. However, a temperature in the range of millions of degrees is
required for the fusion reaction to take place.
The fact that nuclear fusion could take place to produce energy had been known since
1930, when scientists believed that the fusion was the source of energy at the Sun, and the
stars. At the Sun, gravity keeps the reactants together so that the fusion reaction can
continue. Scientists have for the past many decades been talking about fusion-based power
plants on earth. But the earth’s gravitational force is not so large because of its much
smaller mass.
On the earth, many ideas have been conceived and several devices have been built to
produce a sustained fusion reaction. The one, which has worked better than others, was
to electronically heat the charged particle, and confine these charged particles (in a so-
called plasma state) to the desired geometry by applying strong magnetic fields around it.
After different types of machines had been developed, the Russian machines, branded
Tokamak, gained worldwide acceptability. Tokamak is the device which holds the
promise of providing limitless, sustainable, and clean energy to the world through nuclear
fusion. It has a configuration of a doughnut in which high currents of the order of Mega
Amperes are produced through transformer action and magnetic fields (~Tesla) are used
to confine and stabilize the plasma. Over the years, Tokamak devices have shown steady
progress towards the desired values of plasma parameters appropriate for reactor
environment. Many countries most notably Japan, USA, UK, Russia, and China have
built several Tokamaks improving the performance of controlled fusion devices. Some
recent devices are JT60 (Japan), DIII-D (USA), JET (UK), Russia (T-15) and EAST
International Scenario
The world's largest and most ambitious fusion reactor "ITER- International
Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor" is under construction in France with cost around
USD 23 billion. Seven partners (China, European Union, India, Japan, Russia, South
Korea, and USA), representing more than half the world's population, are working hard
with all resources and expertise to ensure the success of ITER. The EU is sharing 45.6%
of the cost while every other member had to pay around 9% or around one billion USD
in-kind. All seven ITER member states have strong domestic tokamak based fusion
program and have built several Tokamaks. Australia, Canada, Kazakhstan and
Principality of Monaco are associated with ITER as non-party. The first operation of ITER
is scheduled in the year 2025. After the successful operation of ITER in 2025, a
breakthrough is anticipated to occur by 2030.
The next step to ITER is the demonstration power plant “DEMO”. Every member of
ITER is free to design its own DEMO (demonstration power plant) as there is no collective
agreement on DEMO. The DEMO will lead fusion into its industrial era, beginning
operations in the early 2035, and putting fusion power into the grid as early as 2040.
A race for the construction of demonstration reactor has already been started among the
ITER member states. The partner countries are undertaking large efforts to capitalize on
their involvement and develop their own nuclear fusion capabilities to generate electricity.
India who is the member of "ITER" since 2005 is spending huge sum of money for its
domestic Tokamak fusion program. India has plans to build a medium size "fusion
reactor" by the year 2027, DEMO fusion reactor by the year 2037 and a commercial fusion
power plant by the year 2050.
China is rushing towards earliest development of its DEMO reactor (CFETR). European
Union is working on “A roadmap to the realization of fusion energy” for bringing Fusion
Electricity to the grid and a consortium “EURO fusion” is setup for it.
Recently, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (US) have
jointly submitted a report to the US Department of Energy (DOE) to lead the world in
fusion and to make an impact on the transition to a low-carbon emission electrical system
by 2050. This report presents a strategic plan for the design, construction, and operation
of a fusion pilot plant with the objective of producing electricity in the 2035-2040
The supporting facilities for ITER and DEMO like IFMIF-DONES (for material testing
under harsh reactor environment) and a world's largest Computational Simulation Centre
(for integrated modelling of reactor plasma) are being established.
Strong interest from the private sector motivates development of a fusion pilot plant, as
companies like Tokamak Energy (UK), General Fusion (Canada), Lockheed Martin
(USA), and several others seek to lead the way towards decarbonizing and modernizing
the national’s energy system. The private companies are more optimistic about the earlier
(in 2030s) success of small fusion power plant up to 100 MW.
Fusion Technology in Pakistan
Realizing the importance of fusion technology, Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission
(PAEC) established a research group named "National Tokamak Fusion Program -
NTFP" in 2007 consisting of plasma physicists and engineers throughout the country. The
aim was to establish strong foundation of tokamak fusion technology and to train human
resource for future fusion power reactor.
This group has established a small Tokamak facility for training of manpower. A series of
three Glass Tokamaks and two Metal Tokamaks has been developed with indigenous
efforts, which are small in size, but have put Pakistan on the world map of Tokamaks. The
experimental results from these devices have been published in the form of papers (50) in
the reputed international journals. Also, liaison has been established with the Institute of
Plasma Physics Chinese Academy of Sciences (ASIPP) China, which is a member of
The up gradation of this small facility to a medium size tokamak is under development at
the institute and a small laboratory infrastructure is also under construction to
accommodate the new device.
Recently, to expand the scope of R&D activities, the tokamak program (NTFP) has been
renamed as “Pakistan Tokamak Plasma Research Institute PTPRI”. In spite of lot of
financial constraints, the institute is working at its best to cope up with the rapid changes
around the world in the area of nuclear fusion and to fill the technological gap of decades
to bring Pakistan at some respectable international level.
Links with the international tokamak community are being expanded to get benefits from
the latest technological developments. Further, extensive training programs are being
initiated on world known Tokamak devices so that considerable human resource may be
developed in this important technological area as the technology may get restricted soon.
It is also being tried to include the cooperation in Tokamak fusion technology on the
agenda of "CPEC" so that the technological cooperation may be extended between "Belt
and Road" countries and also to become official partner of Chinese Demo reactor
“CFETR - China Fusion Engineering Test Reactor”. The platforms of IAEA and CERN
will be utilized to interact ITER as these two big organizations have technological
cooperation agreements with ITER.
Developing a fusion power plant require expertise in a wide range of cutting-edge
technologies and skills from researchers and engineers in industry, national laboratories,
and universities. Therefore, multi-dimensional programs will be initiated on national level
to get maximum trained manpower for future fusion power plant of Pakistan. Also, there
are many spinoffs /applications while working at these high-end technologies of fusion
power reactor that will benefit strategic as well as open sectors of the country. All out
efforts are being made to develop Tokamak fusion power technology in Pakistan.
The subject of fusion energy is extremely relevant to the “Vision-2025of the government
of Pakistan as it lays emphasis on exploration of renewable resources for overcoming the
power shortage and energy crises in Pakistan. Nuclear fusion has potential as alternative
energy source and may be the ultimate source of energy for future.
Further, the cutting-edge technologies involved in fusion power reactor will complement
to the GoP's (Government of Pakistan) vision of achieving "Knowledge based economy"
and will boost the industrial infrastructure of the country.
Fusion power has potential to create Socio-Economic Impact in the country as energy and
power generation is the need of the hour for Pakistan. Although, the available sources are
contributing to the energy/power requirements but are still not sufficient to meet the
growing demands. Power generation through Nuclear Fusion should be given significant
importance as the same will have good synergy affect i.e. greater output with lesser input
and also provide ample opportunities in employment generation, support to industry,
creation of economic activities, self-sufficiency in power generation, and economic
stability for the country.
Small Tokamak Facility at PTPRI - PAEC
Impact of New and Emerging Technologies a Science Diplomacy
Dr. Syed Javaid Khurshid, Senior Research Fellow, Center for International
Strategic Studies
Science diplomacy is defined as international cooperation in scientific fields to foster
communication and cooperation among people of diverse nations aiming at
promoting global peace, prosperity, and stability. It provides an alternate channel
other than normal diplomatic contracts for communication among nations, through
discussion of international issues by also looking at them from a scientific angle.
Though the term science diplomacy, the term emerged in the 21st Century, it has been
closely related to State's political system for centuries. The combination of science
and diplomacy has helped in addressing regional and global issues and has achieved
a number of successes in furthering peace, security, and prosperity in the past. Science
diplomacy in earnest got started after world war-II on the issue of nuclear weapons.
The scientists of the USSR, USA, and Europe got deeply involved with the diplomats
on nuclear safety and security issues. The exchange of views between Soviet and
western scientists helped the two sides to understand the stand of the other side on
nuclear arms control and other related issues. A good example is US-Cuba
diplomatic relations. First, the scientists of the two countries engaged in marine
sciences in Carrabin, and the health threats from infectious diseases. Then in 2014,
AAAS sent a high-level scientific delegation to Cuba and signed an agreement with
the Caribbean Academy of Sciences to pursue active collaboration which helped in
the establishment of diplomatic relations in 2015.
Only a few institutions in the world are presently actively engaged in science
diplomacy and international dialogue on science. These include the Centre of Science
Diplomacy of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS),
The International Network for Government Science Advice (INGSA), Science
Diplomacy, Tufts University, International Institute for Applied System Analysis
(IIASA), the International Science Council (ISC), Third world Academy of Sciences
(TWAS) and Diplomacy program of OPCW, Besides these institutions, The Science
Diplomacy Thematic Network, University of Arctic and International Academies of
Sciences are also working towards this end. Two other organizations comprising of
the world’s science academies are created for advising, the Inter-Academy Panel
focused on capacity building for Science Academies and Inter-Academy Council on
science advice. These two institutes are now combined in the Inter-Academy
Partnership (IAP). It facilitates the regional and global meetings of science academies
at the request of the United Nations on a range of issues. There are some
multinational projects like the Centre for European Nuclear Research (CERN),
International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), and Synchrotron Light
for Experimental Science Applications in the Middle East (SESAME) which are an
example of successful science diplomacy between many countries.
These days three issues are considered very important in Science Diplomacy. The
first is the mitigation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs), the second is to
achieve poverty alleviation by achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals
(SDGs) and the third is international cooperation to achieve the optimum benefit
from the new and emerging technologies.
A) Science diplomacy can play a very effective role in controlling, implementing
regulations, and finally eliminating WMDs. Here we have to remember that
science is the foundation of all developments of WMDs, and that only the
scientists have the knowledge and the expertise to devise the methods of
monitoring and verification for reducing the ill effects of WMDs. For
example, the establishing of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty,
nonproliferation, and countering nuclear terrorism. International science
cooperation can create a basis for trust and confidence which can play a key
role in eliminating WMDs. Many scientists, diplomats, politicians, and
NGOs are working in science diplomacy to increase security and mutual trust
among nations.
B) Another important area where science diplomacy is playing a very effective
role is in achieving the UN’s 17 SDGs in improving living conditions and the
health of billions of people living in different geographical regions on our
planet. The better part of the 20th Century saw tremendous technological
growth and its living conditions are now quite different as compared to in the
1970s. One major example is the way the internet has changed our lives in the
last 20 years. It is expected that these changes are going to be more drastic in
the 21st century. Human beings, therefore, have to make choices between the
technologies which are better for humanity and those that may look attractive
but may be harmful in the long run. All Sustainable Development Goals
(SDGs) have to be achieved for a better life and they need scientific diplomacy
and cooperation in various scientific fields worldwide, especially in power
generation, agriculture, and health.
The importance of science diplomacy in improving health indicators has been
proved in dealing with challenges such as HIV/AIDS in Africa, and the fight
against new infectious diseases of Ebola, Zika, MERS, and SARS, and now in
2019, the coronavirus-19 pandemic. Through coordinated global response and
international programs based on scientific research and technology combined
with international cooperation, we have been able to save much of humanity from
death or serious diseases.
In 2016, Paris Agreement on Climate Change was another success of science
diplomacy through Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The
reports of IPCC not only urged governments to adopt current Scientific knowledge
on climate change but also to formulate their policies to guide them about what
could be done scientifically about mitigation, and adaptation options.
C) The third and most important area is of the New Emerging Technologies and
their Impact worldwide. They are the technologies whose full potential is still
unrealized. Breakthrough on emerging technologies such as Artificial
Intelligence (AI), Cyber Security, 3D laser printing, Drones, Biometrics,
Nanotechnology has already been made and some more may be on the way.
These technologies are contemporary advances and innovations in various
fields of science and technology.
The potential benefits of emerging technologies are enormous and well known but
their harmful effects may also be enormous too. All the emerging technologies are
dual use. The puzzling question is how we can only get benefits and save humanity
from the harmful effects of these technologies. The answer is in science diplomacy,
which is coined to cover all these problems.
1) Artificial intelligence is the feat achieved by computer sciences, which may
become the core component of all software of the future. Artificial intelligence is
about building machines that can think and act intelligently depending upon
algorithms. This gives an opportunity but also creates a threat. It can be used for
both defensive and offensive purposes. This technology besides bringing
prosperity will require a high level of security. Artificial Intelligence has become
very popular soon after it was made available for public use because it has the
potential to reduce human work and bring convenience and efficiency to our
lives. AI effects on people and society are becoming very visible as progress is
taking place in this field. Computer-based vision, speech recognition, and natural
language processing, autonomous vehicles, and organizing the cities, as well as
home service robots, and AI-based services in education, entertainment, and
public safety as some AI benefits. Since AI has the potential to be integrated into
virtually every product and service across cyberspace, geospacer, and space to
make them intelligent. This evolving cognitive ability fundamentally changes the
security landscape for humanity. This is going to impact badly the job markets
throughout the world in the years to come.
AI is also of dual use, of which three are prominent for weaponizing. i) Computer
vision does image and video analysis to survey physical space and respond to
behavioral patterns and enables militaries to integrate computer vision software in
a security camera. At the same time, also enables tracking the movements of
suspicious people, targets on the battlefield, and detecting mines. ii) It enables
Language Processing making the possible real-time translation, summarization,
and information extraction. The most important aspect of AI technology is that
anyone can create an algorithm that can have dual usage. iii) AI-generated 3-D
images representing people places, and things. Artificial Intelligence is among
many other emerging technologies which will change the face of warfare in the
years to come.
2) Cyber networking has become a vital part of government systems of many
advanced countries whereas other countries are also increasing the role of
computer networking in their systems. While it is making running government
systems more efficient and shared rapid decisions can be taken by computer
networking, but it is also a security challenge. Many countries suffered cyber-
attacks. In the future, business concerns, as well as nations, may increase their
efforts to bring harm to their rivals through cyber-attacks. Data protection,
therefore, will be of fundamental importance. Cybercrimes may originate in one
state and target another. The issue needs to be handled through science
diplomacy. Two terms are very important in this context. Cyber security is the
readiness of a country to efficient use of computer networks and cyber defense is
the ability to protect itself from such cyber-attacks. Cyber technology can be used
as a cyber weapon as well Cyber technology is already being used for controlling
drones and certain autonomous weapons. In the future, however computers
warfare may include remote-controlled chemical and biological weapons. Cyber
technology will increase the precision of strike capability but at the same time, it
will increase the militarization of space. Ministry of Foreign affairs should hire
science diplomats or cyber diplomats to handle cyber security issues in
consultation with other states.
3) Advancement in biological sciences is a challenging area that also demands a
focus on biosecurity and mitigating the proliferation of biological weapons.
Developments in Biogenetic Engineering are being made in a very vast area.
When applied correctly it helps in making progress in a number of SDGs directly,
such as those pertaining to agriculture, biotechnology, and health. Gene and
Genome editing on a range of biological species have revolutionized our
approach to human health and the treatment of diseases. To save the world
stringent criteria for clinical trials of human germline cells need to be evolved with
consensus among states. Some recent developments in biotechnology need to be
kept under strict observation because while holding a tremendous promise to
benefit human beings it also increases the possibilities of misuse, as biological
weapons. The science diplomacy covering assessment mechanisms,
strengthening detection procedures, prevention, response to biological incidents
globally, and following BTWC can be very effective in controlling its misuse and
using the biological sciences for the benefit of mankind.
4) 3-D Laser Printing: 3-D laser printers create a 3-D printed object from a digital
file. The 3-D printers are doing many beneficial things for humanity, but at the
same time, this technology can be used to create very dangerous things which can
threaten the security implications of these and other neighboring countries. The
technology is fast, flexible, and cost-effective and might one day print custom-
made heart valves and enable astronauts to print their tools while in space, On
the other hand, it can be used to produce guns parts and other military equipment.
There are also many areas to carefully watch. Besides possible security threats, it
is possible that 3-D laser printing might be able to produce some consumer goods
in the future and will cause a threat to the industry and job market. The 3-D
printers combined with artificial intelligence could make it easier for individuals
to build nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. Science diplomacy can
persuade nations to avoid going on this path.
5) Drones Technology is cheap and comparatively easier to master. It has been used
to benefit in a lot of ways such as for landscaping, water scanning, spraying
pesticides on the crops but at the same time, they can be used for spraying harmful
chemicals and biological materials. Drones have been used in many conflicts in
the last 10 years. Syria, Ukraine, and Libya are the major examples. Drones are
now a part of the arsenals of many countries Turkey has made a lot of progress
in drone technology and made tremendous progress using science diplomacy
against Israel. Drones’ proliferation is increasing rapidly and their use affecting
security. Their use in Afghanistan and Yemen has serious implications for the
security of these and other neighboring countries. Indians put a display on their
drone's swarm’s deployment capability on Army Day Parade in 2019. Pakistan
too is reportedly acquiring drone technology for military use. In this evolving
security environment between India and Pakistan, it is very important to ensure
that drones are not misused and or their use may not trigger an escalation in the
hostilities between the two rival countries.
6) In the Power Sector besides using different types of nuclear reactors for reducing
CO2 emission the safety can be increased but then the digitalizing energy sector
also increases the risk of cyber-attacks and related security issues. Though the
policymakers and power reactor operators are fighting to keep the threat away.
The threat was highlighted in 2010 by the use of malicious code called Worm
specifically formulated to target the inner systems of power plants. It is thought
that this malware infected more than 15,000 computers worldwide. The safety
and security of nuclear facilities from cyber-attacks is an essential and very
important aspect that should be one of the areas of focus of science diplomacy.
7) In 1996, nanoscience was beginning to be recognized as an important new
scientific field and the US allocated $ 1 billion as a Nanotechnology initiative.
Nanotechnology is playing an important role in improving many technologies
and other industries, including information technology, security, medicine,
transportation, energy, food safety, textile, and environmental science.
Nanotechnology materials can be converted into stronger, lighter, more reactive,
better electric conductors. The surface treatment of fabrics can make them
lightweight, resistant to wrinkling, and staining. Light weighting of vehicles and
air crafts would lead to saving of fuel in cars and trucks, etc. The nanoparticles
probes are being used in clinical investigations, giving better therapeutic results in
cancer and other diseases. Nanotechnology is also used in the diagnosis and
treatment of atherosclerosis, and delivering medication to cancer cells, that
minimizes the risk of damage to healthy tissues. In the food industry, this
technology is vastly used to increase global food production. Nanoparticles can
also be very dangerous as they are of the same dimensions as biological molecules
and can penetrate the human cell. As these ultrafine particles can also spread
toxicity easily in the body, the main dual use of nanotechnology at present can be
in chemical weapons by nanoformulation and delivering them to the body
effectively and rapidly.
The societal impacts of new technologies such as AI, Cyber, Drones can be easily
identified but very difficult to predict or measure. Acquiring new technologies is
always beneficial but also has the potential danger to humans, and global safety and
Science Diplomacy between countries can help to share the good results for mutual
benefit and to mitigate the bad effects to humanity. Science diplomacy, it is revealing
that global compromises have been achieved in areas of arms control, poverty
reduction. global health, science innovation, and relation of some countries where
scientists have played an important role. Scientists may be good in their area of
technical expertise but relations between states also need a different set of experts.
Diplomats, and scientists, therefore, should be working together to make the world a
more peaceful place for humanity. Science diplomacy can achieve the required goals
of restriction, collaboration, and cooperation in the future. Science diplomacy has
enormous potential for the building, handling, and solving of contentious issues
between states and to reduce the sharp divide between northern and southern
hemispheres, the east and west, and between developing and developed countries.
As a scientist, I strongly believe that science is a universal language that can
overcome differences among nationalities, races, ethnicities, and religions. Our
mission should be to make World a better place for future generations. Science
diplomacy can help developing countries access scientific resources and promote
their involvement in regional and global research.
1. A National Scientific Commission (NSC) should be constituted, comprising of
20 prominent scientists, with representation from the provinces, Ministry of
Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Interior, and Ministry of IT.
2. Pakistan Academy of Sciences should be the guiding body of Scientific
Diplomacy executed through the help of MOFA & MOST.
3. Pakistan Academy of Science with the help of NSC should finalize the 6-8
fields for Scientific Diplomacy.
4. Pakistan Academy of Science with the help of NSC should formulate the
guiding principles of scientific research for all the scientific organizations &
Universities for Research and Development.
5. More international institutions worldwide should be developed in cutting edge
technologies to handle global problems jointly such as ocean governance,
water, energy, and understanding of volcanos i.e., Synchrotron light for
Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East (SESAME).
6. Pakistan should figure out areas where it needs help and areas where it can
provide help to activate science diplomacy
7. NSC, PAS & MOFA should develop a strategy for global scientific
collaboration & cooperation leading to science diplomacy.
8. These bodies should look to increase & upgrade the scientific activities within
the country to the international level to increase cooperation & collaboration.
Further Reading
1. Kaltofen, Carolin, and Michele Acuto. “Rebalancing the Encounter
between Science Diplomacy and International Relations Theory”. Global
Policy 9.S3 (2018): 15-22
2. Kaltofen, Carolyn, Michele Acuto, and Jason Blackstock, eds. Special
Issue: Science Diplomacy. Global Policy 9.3 (2018)
3. Krasnoyarsk, Olga. National Styles in Science, Diplomacy, and Science
Diplomacy. Leiden,The Netherlands: Brill, 2018.
4. Madrid Declaration on Science Diplomacy. Madrid: S4D4C, 2019
5. Royal Society and American Association for the Advancement of
Science. New Frontiers in Science Diplomacy. London: Royal Society
and American Association for the Advancement of Science.
6. Copeland Daryl: “Bridging the Chasm: Why science and Technology
Must Become Priorities for Diplomacy and International Policy” Science
and Diplomacy, Vol 4, No 3, Sept 2015
7. “Charlevoix: Common Vision for the Future of Artificial Intelligence.”
2018. 2018
8. Peter Stones et. al. Artificial Intelligence and life in 2030 (Stanford CA,
Stanford University 2016,
9. Human Gene Editing: Science Ethics and Governance (Washington, DC:
National Academy Press, 2017)
Emerging technologies: an unavoidable topic for developing countries
Dr. Laura A Galvis (Postdoctoral Researcher, Institut NeuroMyogene)
The recent GESDA Science Diplomacy Summit brought forth an engaging discussion
around some of the technologies expected to shape human societies in the near future. Its
Science Breakthrough Radar offers insights and potential timelines into some of the hottest
topics in science: human gene editing, quantum computing, artificial intelligence, lifespan
extension, among others. Topics that stimulate our imagination and make us think about
the science fiction stories we read growing up. However, how relevant are these emerging
technologies to someone who does not have access to electricity or safe drinking water?
How should low-income countries allocate resources on these topics? What will be the
cost of ignoring this evolving reality? Responding to current challenges like climate change
and food insecurity without the help of these innovations is impossible. However, these
technologies can also expand the breach between rich and poor countries. Contrary to
previous technological jumps, it is imperative for countries to prepare for the benefits and
divisions these emerging technologies will entail, regardless of their income.
Between-countries inequality has been growing since the industrial revolution, when
technological differences strongly impacted human wellbeing, economics and social
structures. Today, 85% of inequality is accounted by between-countries inequality (rather
than within-country), implying that the biggest determinant of your access to opportunities
will be the country where you are born (1). The economic advantages brought forth by
technology provide more resources for research and development, which in turn increase
the gap with less-developed countries, feeding a cycle of growing inequalities. However,
technology per se cannot be blamed for the social disparities that have arisen since the
industrial revolution. They are rather linked to unequal distribution, profit concentration
and restricted access, and as such are the result of economic and political decisions (2,3).
With this new wave of frontier technologies already changing our work habits and our
personal interactions, it would be naïve to believe that the effects that these technologies
will have on inequality will be different to those observed with all other technological
jumps in the last 200 years.
In the same way that governments use taxes and redistribution policies to reduce wealth
inequalities, limiting disparities created or exacerbated by these frontier technologies while
maximising their benefits needs to be guided by social studies and implemented through
policy and legislation. The fast pace of our current technological progress also implies that
these policies need to be flexible or reactive enough to avoid becoming outdated as the
technology evolves. Contrary to what most scientist like to believe, science is political, and
scientific development should not be disjoined from social, economic and cultural
discourse. As mentioned by Habets et al, understanding science is not enough to know
how to best govern it (4). Understanding how society will react to certain technology and
how to present it may be crucial to its success and its integration in society. For example,
Japan and other East Asian countries, where sociotechnical imaginaries of robots are more
positive, have incorporated this technology more readily than western societies
accustomed to the mostly dystopian vision of science fiction and the clear distinctions
between nature and technology (5). In the case of genetically modified organisms (GMO),
a negative perception in the general population has hindered its development and
implementation, despite the many benefits it could offer (6,7). The importance of early
social studies in the effect of these frontier technologies will be critical to avoid a situation
like the GMO fiasco. Additionally, each technology impacts inequality differently, and its
potential effects must be anticipated to design effective policies. For example, automation
is threatening the loss of jobs, while gene editing is feared to generate biological
inequalities. The response to each needs to be tailored.
For developing countries, the challenge ahead is double. Engaging in these new
technologies needs to be coupled to reducing the existing technological gaps. There is no
one-for-all solution. Like in evolution, the success of a strategy cannot be determined
independently from the context. Some countries in Eastern Asia have done a magnificent
job in technologically catching up during the last 50 years (1,8). The Technology and
Innovation Report 2021 highlighted countries that are pulling above their weight in
technology readiness based on their GDP per capita (1). They have done so through
policy, incentives, investment, and industrialization (1). A multifaceted and dynamic
strategy is probably needed.
Shared and open access resources to tackle common problems or improve mutual areas of
interest may be part of the answer to the limited resources these countries have for research
and technology. A bigger involvement of non-state actors may counterbalance, or at least
diminish, the negative effects of political instability. Non-state actors, like the
Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World, can also provide spaces
for capacity-building, and resource-sharing, to surmount traditional barriers of access (9).
An integrative strategy with the scientific diaspora could enrich national research
capacities and avoid brain drain. Public campaigns could place science and technology as
central players in the national identity. Universal internet access could facilitate skill
development and engagement with these emerging technologies.
Perhaps we should take our hats off to all the developing countries out there, tasked with
the arduous challenge of catching up in their deficits with less resources and less stability,
while actively contributing to the technological frontier in order to retain some power in a
playing field dominated by big performers. Despite the difficulties that developing
countries face, failure to integrate emerging technologies will only guarantee that the
inequality breach will keep on growing and that R&D remains oriented to solving the
problems of developed countries.
1. United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (2021) Technology and
Innovation Report 2021. Catching technological waves: Innovation with equity.
2. Naudé,W. & Nagler,P. (2016) Is Technological Innovation Making Society More
Unequal? United Nations University.
3. Arocena, R., & Senker, P. (2003). Technology, inequality, and
underdevelopment: The case of Latin America. Science, Technology, & Human
Values, 28(1), 15-33.
4. Habets, M. G. J. L., Zwart, H. A. E., & van Est, R. (2021). Why the Synthetic
Cell Needs Democratic Governance. Trends in Biotechnology, 39(6), 539541.
5. Sakura, O. (2021). Robot and ukiyo-e: implications to cultural varieties in
humanrobot relationships. AI & SOCIETY, 1-11.
6. Kevin Doxzen & Hope Henderson (2020) Is This Safe? Addressing Societal
Concerns About CRISPR-Edited Foods Without Reinforcing GMO
Framing, Environmental Communication, 14:7, 865-
871, DOI: 10.1080/17524032.2020.1811451
7. Jiang, K., Anderton, B. N., Ronald, P. C., & Barnett, G. A. (2018). Semantic
network analysis reveals opposing online representations of the search term
“GMO”. Global Challenges, 2(1), 1700082.
8. Wong, P. K. (1999). National innovation systems for rapid technological catch-
up: An analytical framework and a comparative analysis of Korea, Taiwan and
Singapore. In DRUID Summer Conference held in Rebild.
9. Bonilla, K., Cabrera, J., Calles-Minero, C., Torres-Atencio, I., Aquino, K.,
Renderos, D., & Alonzo, M. (2021). Participation in Communities of Women
Scientists in Central America: Implications From the Science Diplomacy
Perspective. Frontiers in research metrics and analytics, 27.
Technological Challenges in the Way of Nuclear Risks Reduction and
Strategic Stability in South Asia
Shahrukh Khan, Career Diplomat, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
According to the theory of nuclear deterrence, a state acquires nuclear weapons in
self-defense if its territorial integrity and sovereignty come under attack. Nuclear weapons
serve as a shield for a state having conventional asymmetries against its adversary
However, emerging technologies are questioning the efficacy of nuclear deterrence. The
unregulated military use of cyber technology, Artificial Intelligence (AI), deep-fakes,
quantum computing, hypersonic missiles, and advanced ballistic-missiles defense systems
are questioning the credibility of nuclear deterrence, resultantly increasing the risks of
inadvertent or intentional use of nuclear weapons
. Rebecca Hersman has attributed this
situation as Wormhole Escalation”. According to her, “emerging technologies have created
openings (Wormholes) in the fabric of nuclear deterrence that may compel competing nations into an
intentional or inadvertent sub-conventional or strategic level of conflict”. Emerging technologies
have also changed the concept of the “stability-instability” paradox and Kahn’s 44 rungs
escalation ladder by making the patterns of escalation non-linear and unpredictable. Now
states are using emerging technologies in place of surrogates and proxies to target their
adversaries below the nuclear threshold. Moreover, the precision and lethality of digital
weapons are blurring the lines between the conflicts at sub-conventional, conventional,
and strategic levels and creating a challenging situation for nuclear risks reduction
Emerging technologies are also threatening the strategic stability of South Asia. In
all such scenarios, the presence of three nuclear-armed neighbors i.e., India, China, and
Pakistan, intensifying conventional and nuclear arms race, are the factors posing serious
challenges for the strategic stability of the region. The nuclear history of the region reveals
that Pakistan’s nuclear program is purely defensive and it was forced to adopt a nuclear
path. Since the nuclearization of South Asia in 1974, nuclear weapons-free South Asia has
remained the cornerstone of Pakistan’s nuclear diplomacy. Since 1947, the dispute of
Jammu & Kashmir which caused wars continues to be the mother of all disputes between
both countries
. However, the recent developments like growing violence in Afghanistan,
border tensions between India and China, and the growing militarization of the Indian
Ocean are not a good omen for regional stability. These developments should be analyzed
in the context of Indian military modernization and its growing belligerence which has
further accentuated after declaring it a Net-Security provider in the Indian Ocean Region
Caitlin Talmadge, “Emerging Technology and Intra-War Escalation Risks: Evidence from the Cold War,
Implications for Today,” Journal of Strategic Studies 42, no. 6 (2019): 86487.
Keir A. Lieber and Daryl G. Press, “The New Era of Counterforce: Technological Change and the Future of
Nuclear Deterrence,” International Security 41, no. 4 (April 1, 2017): 949,
Rebecca Hersman, “Wormhole Escalation in the New Nuclear Age (Summer 2020),” 2020,
Feroz Hassan Khan, Eating Grass: The Making of the Pakistani Bomb (Stanford, California: Stanford Security
Studies An Imprint of Standford University Press, 2012), p. 95.
Shishir Upadhyaya, “Maritime Security Cooperation in the Indian Ocean Region: Assessment of India’s
Maritime Strategy to Be the Regional ‘Net Security Provider,’” n.d., 337.
2019’s Indian testing of anti-satellite weapon (ASAT), the test of Hypersonic Technology
Demonstrator Vehicle (HSTDV), acquisition of modern anti-ballistic missile defense
systems, induction of combat unmanned aerial vehicles, have further heightened the
nuclear risks for the region.
This paper has been divided into five portions. The first portion discusses the
concept of nuclear risk reduction (NRR), its history, and different agreements concluded
by the NWS. The second portion outlines the types of new and emerging technologies
which are threatening strategic stability. The third part traces the nuclear history of South
Asia, broad contours Pakistan’s nuclear diplomacy and the CBMs taken by both countries
over time. The fourth part has been dedicated to the study of threats of the military use of
emerging technologies specific to South Asia and the fifth part explores the measures
which could help mitigate the risks posed by the emerging technologies.
1. What is Nuclear Risk Reduction (NRR): A Historical Perspective
NRR means reducing the risks of inadvertent or intentional use of nuclear weapons.
The concept of NRR is quite broad which entails several measures such as the physical
safety of nuclear weapons, reducing the dangers of accidental use, de-alerting of nuclear
weapons, measures against the proliferation of nuclear weapons to terrorists and non-state
actors, securing nuclear command, control and communication (NC3) infrastructure and
establishing communication channels at military and diplomatic levels
There could be several possible scenarios during which a country may use nuclear
weapons, nevertheless, for better understanding, Wilfred Wan divides those possible
situations into the following four categories
Doctrinal Use
Use of nuclear weapons as per declared policies.
Escalatory Use
Refers to the use of nuclear weapons in a situation when a crisis and
crosses certain thresholds.
Unauthorized Use
Unauthorized use by a non-state actor by using some stolen or lost
nuclear device
Accidental Use
Refers to the launch of a nuclear missile because of human or
technical error.
The intellectual base of the existing NRR concepts dates back to the cold war era.
The Cuban missile crisis of 1962 is considered a watershed event in the nuclear history of
the world which brought the United States and the Soviet Union close to nuclear war. The
fears of another nuclear apocalypse after 1945’s nuclear bombing of Japan, compelled the
nuclear weapons states (NWS) and other regional nuclear powers to resort to different risk
B. Roberts, “Major Power Rivalry and Nuclear Risk Reduction: Perspectives From Russia, China, and the
United States” (Lawrence Livermore National Lab.(LLNL), Livermore, CA (United States), 2020).
The United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research and Wilfred Wan, “Nuclear Risk Reduction: A
Framework for Analysis” (The United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research, June 28, 2019),
reduction measures
. The following table contains the list of nuclear risk reduction
agreements made over time
However, today the emerging technologies are responsible for aggravating the risks
of confrontation or a nuclear war as well. Technological advancements in the fields of
cyber-space, AI, quantum computing, weaponization of outer space, and hypersonic
missile technologies are raising the bar of strategic uncertainty and may trigger a crisis or
even nuclear war. Emerging technologies have changed the traditional concepts of warfare
by introducing non-linear and less predictable pathways to escalation, resultantly adding
more challenges for crisis management. They have further made the security environment
more contested by empowering the small regional powers like Iran and North Korea to
challenge the strategic warfare capabilities of global powers. In reality, disruptive digital
technologies have challenged the traditional ways of thinking about escalation and
2. Impact of Emerging Technologies on the Nuclear Risks
Before discussing the adverse impacts of emerging technologies on strategic
stability and NRR measures, it is better to get a definitional understanding of emerging
technologies, their different types, and impacts on strategic stability.
2.1. Defining the Emerging Technologies
Emerging Technologies can be defined as those new technologies which are
currently being developed or will be developed in the coming five to ten years and are
characterized by novelty, and the ability to play a key role in socio-economic
. In March 2020, NATO published a report entitled “Science & Technology
Trends: 2020-2040” which defines emerging technologies as ‘technologies with expectations
Wilfred Wan, “Nuclear Risk Reduction: Looking Back, Moving Forward, and the Role of NATO,” 2020.
“Hotline Agreements | Arms Control Association,” accessed August 7, 2021,
“Nuclear Risk Reduction Centers,” U.S. Department of State, accessed August 7, 2021, //2009-
Hersman, “Wormhole Escalation in the New Nuclear Age (Summer 2020).”
Marina Favaro, “Weapons of Mass Distortion: A New Approach to Emerging Technologies, Risk Reduction,
and the Global Nuclear Order,” June 2021, 32.
US-Soviet Union Nuclear Hotline Agreement
French-Soviet Hotline Agreement
Britain-Soviet Hotline Agreement
US-Soviet Union Agreement to Remove Dangers of Nuclear War
US-Soviet Agreement on the establishment of nuclear risk reduction centers
China-Russia Hotline Agreement
US-China Hotline Agreement
India-Pakistan Nuclear Hotlines Agreement
India-China Hotline Agreement
to get mature by 2020-2040, not widely in use currently and whose impacts on defense and security
are still unknown’. In the same document NATO has also defined Disruptive Technologies
as ‘those technologies or scientific discoveries that are expected to affect NATO defense, security or
enterprise functions in the period 2020-2040’
. Furthermore, Marina Favaro identifies three
challenges associated with emerging technologies. Firstly, the emerging technologies are
originating from the private sector, resultantly diminishing the role of the government to
control them, secondly, the pace of technological production is so fast that public policy
practitioners are unable to regulate them and thirdly, despite the fact the nuclear risk is
increasing, yet both NWS and NNWS are unable to reach on consensus on the regulations
on emerging technologies
2.2. Types of Disruptive Emerging Technologies
The recently published report of Kings College London identifies the following
emerging technologies having the potential to undermine strategic stability
AI-Powered Cyber Operations
AI for ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance)
Deep-Fake Technology
Hypersonic Missiles
Swarm Robots
Satellite Jamming and spoofing
Kinetic Anti-Satellite (ASAT) Capabilities
Directed Energy Weapons
2.3. How Disruptive Emerging Technologies Harm Strategic Stability?
Following are some prominent emerging technologies having the potential to
aggravate the risks of nuclear confrontation.
2.3.1. Cyber-Attacks
The incidents like the 2019 cyber-attack against the Kudankulam nuclear power plant
in India and the recent Colonial fuel pipeline in the USA, SolarWinds hacks, and
revelations about the Project Pegasus are a stark reminder of the grim reality that
cyberspace has become an arena of military confrontation
The rising tide of cyber-attacks targeting critical infrastructures might push the states
towards the inadvertent of deliberate use of nuclear weapons. Any nuclear power can’t
compromise on its nuclear deterrence and the reliability of its NC3 infrastructure. Any
cyber-attack directed against the NC3 system could become a legit reason for a nuclear
response. The Global Zero Commission on Nuclear Risk Reduction has also predicted the
“190422-ST_Tech_Trends_Report_2020-2040.Pdf,” accessed August 3, 2021,
Allegra Hobbs, “The Colonial Pipeline Hack: Exposing Vulnerabilities in US Cybersecurity,” 2021.
possibility of jamming the early warning systems, breaching firewalls and air-gaps
networks, and transmitting false launch orders or even nuclear weapons, by the hackers
Even an air-gapped network could become a victim of a cyber-attack and hackers may
get access to sensitive information, corrupt critical data, or cause physical damage to the
infrastructure. In this regard, the most pertinent example will be of Stuxnet worm attack
which targeted the SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) system of Iranian
nuclear facilities in Natanz in 2010 and severely damaged the centrifuges used for uranium
enrichment. The success of the Stuxnet attack was a turning point in the history of cyber-
warfare which inspired other nations to resort to cyber means. Hackers can also Jam the
air-defense system of a country. The same happened in the past in 2007 during Operation
Orchard, when Israeli airstrikes destroyed the Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007 by hacking
into the Syrian air-defense system
Moreover, the fears of cyber-attacks against non-military targets such as national
power grids, water supply systems, financial and banking systems, and other critical
infrastructure have compelled the countries to re-adjust their nuclear doctrines and
lowering of the nuclear threshold. In this regard, the US Nuclear Posture Review (NPR)
of 2018 clearly states that the US may retaliate by nuclear means in case of non-nuclear
strategic attacks
As of today, United States, Russia, United Kingdom, China, Iran, and DPRK all have
specialized cyber-warfare units with the ability to conduct successful offensive cyber
. Such unchecked military capabilities could have dire consequences for
strategic stability at the regional and global levels.
2.3.2. Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Another major technological challenge in the way of successful NRR measures
comes from the rapid ingress of AI-driven platforms into the military domain. The utility
of AI and ML in the industry can’t be questioned, however, the delegation of power to a
machine to make battlefield decisions autonomously without human intervention has
given rise to several legal and moral questions. The normative discussions on AI cut across
various domains such as international law, risks and safety assessment, and technological
However, the dilemma confronting the world is the application of AI technology
in the nuclear realm and the efforts to design an AI-driven nuclear weapons platform
. If
such a thing happens, it would become extremely impossible to stop the inadvertent or
intentional nuclear missile launch. Because of technical limitations and difficulties to
“Global_zero_commission_on_nuclear_risk_reduction_report_0.Pdf,” accessed August 3, 2021,
Richard A. Clarke and Robert K. Knake, Cyber War: The next Threat to National Security and What to Do about
It, 1st ed (New York: Ecco, 2010),p. 10.
Dick Zandee, “Trump’s Nuclear Posture Review: A New Rift between Europe and the US?,” Clingendael
Policy Brief, February 2018, 7.
Rafay Baloch, “Cyber Warfare Trends, Tactics and Strategies: Lessons for Pakistan,” n.d.
Jessica Cox and Heather Williams, “The Unavoidable Technology: How Artificial Intelligence Can Strengthen
Nuclear Stability,” The Washington Quarterly 44, no. 1 (2021): 6985.
design and code such an intelligent and autonomous weapon system is near to impossible.
Moreover, such a system will highly be susceptible to cyber-attacks and cyber-intrusion.
Hence, the reliance on AI-driven nuclear weapons systems or missile defense systems will
simply be an act of foolishness
It is necessary to bear in mind the past incidents when technical glitches brought
the world near nuclear apocalypse and the presence of a human in the decision-making
loop saved the world from nuclear annihilation. In September 1983, a soviet missile alert
system gave the false alarm of five incoming US ICBMs. This false alarm was a result of
a system glitch; however, it was the presence of a human (Lt. Col. Stanislav Petrov) whose
prudence didn’t initiate the launch of Soviet nuclear missiles. Another incident that
questions the credibility of autonomous systems, happened during the second Iraq war in
2003 when some technical error in the US Patriot Missile Defense System resulted in the
shooting down of a US Navy F-18 fighter and a British Tornado
2.3.3. Deep-Fake Technology
The Deep-Fake technology is another AI phenomenon that has added another
dimension to the nuclear risks. Deep-Fakes are doctored or fake images, audio or video
clips having undistinguishable resemblance with the real person. These fake images,
audio, and video clips are generated using the Generative Adversarial Network (GAN)
technique, which uses two algorithms i.e., Generator and Discriminator to create a phony
image, audio, or video clip. The Deep-Fake technique extracts the voice, facial
expressions, and other traits of a person and superimposes them on another. Apart from
moral and legal objections associated with this technique, it is extremely dangerous for
peace and security. For instance, at the height of a crisis, a phony video or image could
have disastrous results especially when the channels of communication are non-existent
or ineffective
. From the nuclear security perspective, Deep-Fake poses a potential threat
to personnel reliability and information security command structure
2.3.4. Quantum Computing
Similarly, the application of quantum computing would also have adverse
consequences for nuclear safety and security and will cast adverse impacts on strategic
stability. With enormous processing powers, quantum computers will be able to break the
nuclear codes easily. If used in combination with cyber and AI-driven weapons as a force
multiplier, there is a possibility that they can easily make nuclear deterrence irrelevant
Elena Sokova, “Disruptive Technologies and Nuclear Weapons,” New Perspectives 28, no. 3 (September 2020):
Paul Scharre, Army of None: Autonomous Weapons and the Future of War (New York: W.W. Norton &
Company, 2019), p. 146,148.
J. M. Porup, “Deepfake Videos: How and Why They Work — and What Is at Risk,” CSO Online, March 18, 2021,
Alexey Averkin et al., “Artificial Intelligence in the Context of Psychological Security: Theoretical and
Practical Implications.,” in EUSFLAT Conf., 2019.
“NUCLEAR COMMAND-AND-CONTROL IN THE QUANTUM ERA | Nautilus Institute for Security and
Sustainability,” March 30, 2018,
Despite the fact the cyber technology, AI, and Quantum computing might have
enormous benefits in the civilian domain, still, these technologies are not mature enough
to be employed in the military domain where the final decision should be made by a
human, not a machine
3. An Overview of Nuclear Diplomacy of Pakistan and Efforts to Preserve the
Strategic Stability in South Asia
This section traces the history of the nuclearization of South Asia and discusses the
broad contours of Pakistan’s nuclear diplomacy, it also takes stock of the nuclear and other
strategic CBMs between both countries.
3.1. A Brief History of the Nuclearization of South Asia
India and Pakistan are immediate neighbors and got independence from the same
colonial power in 1947. However, even after seven decades, they are unable to resolve
their outstanding issues peacefully. Since 1947, both countries have fought three full-scale
wars in 1948, 1965, and 1971respectively, one limited war in Kargil in 1999 and
encountered near to war situations in 1987, 2001, 2002, 2008, and 2019 respectively. A
cursory look at all Indo-Pakistan military encounters reveals that except in 1971, Jammu
and Kashmir dispute was the root cause behind all conflicts between both countries.
However, the year 1998 was a turning point in the political history of South Asia
when both countries ended their covert nuclear programs and emerged as declared nuclear
powers. Pakistan’s nuclear explosions on 28 and 30 May 1998 were in response to India’s
nuclear tests. It clears one thing that Pakistan’s nuclear test was in response to India and
its nuclear program is purely defensive and aimed at protecting the territorial integrity and
sovereignty by ensuring credible minimum deterrence
.Dr, Sannia Abdullah also argues
that Indian motivation to get nuclear weapons was driven by global power ambition while
Pakistan’s nuclear program was aimed at addressing security concerns
. Pakistan’s first
use policy is also meant to deter adversary if it crosses certain thresholds
Pakistan’s quest for a nuclear bomb dates back to 1974 when India detonated a
nuclear device in Pokhran under the garb of Peaceful Nuclear Explosion (PNE). At that
time, the wounds of the 1971 war and the ensuing dismemberment of the country were
still fresh. Genuine fears of getting overwhelmed by a militarily superior adversary
compelled Pakistan to adopt a nuclear path. Soon after that test, PM Z.A. Bhutto made it
clear to build nuclear weapons, even if the people of Pakistan “had to eat grass”. However,
the journey had never been easy and remained filled with external threats, economic
sanctions, and arms embargos
3.2. Theoretical Frameworks to Understand the Nuclearization of South Asia
Scharre, Army of None, p. 252.
Hassan Abbas, Pakistan’s Nuclear Bomb: A Story of Defiance, Deterrence and Deviance (Haryana, India:
Penguin Allen Lane, 2018).p. 293.
Sannia Abdullah, “Pakistan and the Nonproliferation Regime.Final,” 2018,
Dr Sitakanta Mishra, “FEATURED | Pakistan’s Nuclear Threshold: Not as Low as Perceived,” n.d., 5.
Khan, Eating Grass: The Making of the Pakistani Bomb, p. 7.
The theory of realism best explains the nuclearization of South Asia. According to
realists and neo-realists, there is a structural flaw in the international governance system.
The absence of a central governing authority and the uneven distribution of natural and
economic resources have made the world chaotic. In such a scenario, an arms buildup by
one country makes another country insecure. Therefore, to protect their sovereignty and
territorial integrity, states have limited choices in hand. States balance the power
asymmetry by entering into alliances or by transforming themselves into economic and
military powers or by accepting the suzerainty of global or regional power
When applied to South Asia to understand the nuclearization of the region, the
theory of realism fits well in case of Pakistan. It was the sense of fear of giving up the
sovereignty in the hands of a militarily strong adversary like India, it opted for the option
of getting nuclear weapons. Similarly, the victory of militarily superior China in 1962,
which pushed India to pursue a nuclear path, is presented as a cogent reason behind getting
nuclear weapons
. However, scholars provide historical evidences that the India’s
acquiring of nuclear weapons was not security-driven, rather status-driven. According to
them it was not Chinese threat, rather quest for global prestige, ambitions to offset
adversaries and rivals
, which nullifies the Indian assertion that it possession of nuclear
weapons was purely to counter any Chinese aggression against its sovereignty and
territorial integrity.
In the light of the above discussion, it can be concluded that the theory of Realism
can be applied to South Asia to have a better understanding of the factors that pushed
India and Pakistan to resort to nuclear weapons.
3.3. Nuclear Diplomacy of Pakistan
Broadly defined, Nuclear Diplomacy is the manifestation of a country’s foreign
policy towards acquiring nuclear technology for both peaceful and military purposes,
assuring deterrence and its commitments towards the aspects of nuclear proliferation.
Keeping in view Pakistan’s history of long-standing disputes with India, and the latter’s
numerical advantage of conventional forces, Pakistan’s nuclear diplomacy has remained
successful in achieving the objectives of protecting its national security and territorial
integrity via credible minimum deterrence and socio-economic development uses nuclear
technology in the civilian sphere. Moreover, Pakistan has always remained committed to
the global non-proliferation objectives and always remains ready to resolve all disputes
with India through dialogue. The signing of different agreements between both countries
to lower the risks of nuclear is also a manifestation of Pakistan’s successful nuclear
William A. Galston, “Realism in Political Theory,” European Journal of Political Theory 9, no. 4 (2010): 385
Jalil Mehdi, “Nuclear Strategy and Regional Stability in Southern Asia,” Journal of Asian Security and
International Affairs 4, no. 1 (April 2017): 12337,
Ashfaq Ahmad, Muhammad Ramiz Mohsin, Farzad Ahmed Cheema, “Nehru the Father of Indian Atomic
Bomb and Integrated Guided Missile Development Program: A Historical Perspective,” Pakistan Social Sciences
Review 2, no. II (December 31, 2018): 13042,
Sher Bano, “Pakistan’s Nuclear Diplomacy: Commitment Towards Non-Proliferation,” Modern Diplomacy
(blog), September 14, 2020,
3.4. Confidence Building Measures (CBMs): A Definitional Understanding
Confidence Building Measures or CBMs are effective diplomatic tools to foster
trust among countries and to prevent conflict. According to the Cambridge dictionary,
confidence is a feeling of trust in someone or something. The antonyms of confidence are
doubt, hesitation, and uncertainty. In diplomacy, CBMs may be defined as a set of
unilateral, bilateral, or multilateral measures taken to build confidence and to end tensions
between two or more states. CBMs are the diplomatic initiatives that help to repair
relations between countries, marred with distrust, resultantly reduce the chances of a
conflict. CBMs create a conducive environment for the states to build trust for negotiating
a treaty or agreement to end the conflict. CBMs are backed by information exchanges, pre-
notifications, and verification to measure the sincerity and commitment of all the parties
3.5. An Appraisal of Pakistan’s Efforts for Nuclear-Weapons Free South Asia
Since 1974, Pakistan’s made several efforts and floated numerous proposals to keep
South Asia free of nuclear weapons, however, India turned down all the proposals on the
contention that until and unless China doesn’t give up nuclear weapons, such initiatives
will be of no value. Another reason behind the failure of the proposal was the Indian
hegemonic designs and the ambitions to become a global power. The main purpose of
nuclear CBMs offered by Pakistan to India was to protect the strategic stability in South
Asia and conflict resolution via peaceful means.
The fowling table depicts the chronology of different proposals given by Pakistan
to Indian to keep South Asia free of nuclear weapons
South Asian Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Agreement
Joint Renunciation of Acquisition or Manufacture of Nuclear Weapons
Mutual Inspection of Nuclear Facilities
Simultaneous Acceptance of IAEA Full Scope Safeguards
Simultaneous Accession to the NPT
Bilateral Nuclear Test Ban Treaty
South Asia Zero Missile Zone
Soon after becoming a declared nuclear power, Pakistan offered India to establish
a Strategic Restraint Regime (SRR) in South Asia. The main points of the
proposal were: i) Rationalizing the number of nuclear forces. ii) Rationalizing
the number of conventional forces. iii) Not to deploy any ballistic missile defense
Simultaneous adherence to Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)
Bilateral Moratorium on Nuclear Testing
Johan Jrgen Holst, “Confidence‐building Measures a Conceptual Framework,” Survival 25, no. 1 (January 1,
1983): 215,
3.6. An Overview of Nuclear CBMs between India and Pakistan
The following list takes stock of Nuclear CBMs between India and Pakistan
a) Agreement on the Prohibition on Attacking Nuclear Sites and Facilities (1988)
On December 31, 1988, both countries concluded an agreement that prohibits
attacking civilian nuclear sites. The agreement came into force on January 27, 1991. Under
the same agreement, every year in January both countries share the list of their civilian
nuclear sites along with geographical coordinates. Since 1992, both countries are
exchanging the lists regularly
b) Foreign Secretaries Nuclear Hotline (2004)
In 2004, a nuclear hotline was established between the Foreign Secretaries of both
countries. Its purpose was to avert any misunderstanding which might lead to nuclear
c) Agreement on Pre-Notification of Flight Testing of Ballistic Missiles (2005)
On October 3, 2005, both countries signed the agreement on pre-notification of
flight testing of ballistic missiles. According to the agreement, both countries are bound to
inform 72 hours before the flight test of land or sea-launched surface to surface ballistic
missiles. As per the agreement, both countries ensure that the test site and the planned
impact area are not falling within 40 Kms and 75 Kms of the international boundary or
the LoC. Moreover, the planned trajectory of the ballistic missiles can’t be directed
towards the international border or the LoC. However, this agreement covers only ballistic
missiles, not cruise missiles
d) Agreement on Reducing the Risk from Accidents Relating to Nuclear Weapons
In February 2007, both countries signed the Agreement on Reducing the Risk from
Accidents Relating to Nuclear Weapons which was renewed for five years in 2012 and
2017 respectively. According to the agreement both countries notify each other
immediately in the event of an accident relating to a nuclear weapon with risk of
radioactive fallout
Adil Sultan, Universalizing Nuclear Nonproliferation Norms: A Regional Framework for the South Asian Nuclear
Weapon States, 1st ed. 2019 (Cham: Springer International Publishing : Imprint: Palgrave Pivot, 2019),
“India-Pakistan Non-Attack Agreement | Treaties & Regimes | NTI,” accessed August 7, 2021,
“Joint Statement, India-Pakistan Expert-Level Talks on Nuclear CBMs,” accessed August 7, 2021,
MISSILES-2005.Pdf,” accessed August 7, 2021,
“PA07B0425.Pdf,” accessed August 7, 2021,
3.7. Other Conventional CBMs between India and Pakistan
Following is the list of other significant strategic CBMs between India and
a) Hot Lines
To eliminate doubts and to defuse tensions, over time India and Pakistan
established the following channels of communication at political and military levels
DGMOs Hotline: This military level hotline between the DGMOs of both countries was
first established in 1971. This hotline has remained instrumental for reducing tensions
between both countries on the Line of Control (LoC).
Maritime Hotline: In January 2004, a hotline was established between Pakistan Maritime
Security Agency (PMSA) and the Indian Coast Guards. Both countries use this channel
of communication for the exchange of information on maritime affairs, especially relating
to fishermen who frequently cross into each other’s maritime boundaries
b) Agreement on Advance Notification on Military Exercises, Maneuvers and
Troops Movement (1991)
On April 6, 1991, both countries signed Agreement on Advance Notification on Military
Exercises, Maneuvers, and Troops Movements. According to this agreement, it is obligatory for
both countries to timely inform each other before conducting military exercises and troop’s
movement. This agreement helps to avert misinterpretation of any large-scale movement
of troops and no to perceive it as preparation for war
c) Agreement on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (1992)
In August 1992, both countries signed an agreement prohibiting the development,
stockpiling, and use of chemical weapons. Under the same agreement, both countries
signed the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) in January 1993
d) Prevention of the Violation of Airspace (1991)
In April 1991, both countries signed an Agreement on the Prevention of the
Violation of Airspace, prohibiting the flying of combat aircraft including fighter jets,
reconnaissance aircraft, military trainers, and armed helicopters within 10 km of each
other’s airspace. This also includes the prohibition of flying over the territorial waters of
both countries
Maria Saifuddin Effendi and Dr Ishtiaq Ahmad, “India–Pakistan CBMs since 1947 A Critical Analysis,” South
Asian Studies 31, no. 1 (2020).
“Pakistan Hotline Prevents Fishermen Crossing,” Reuters, January 31, 2007, sec. Internet News,
“CBMHandbook3-1998-i-Pagree.Pdf,” accessed August 7, 2021,
“India-Pakistan Agreement on Chemical Weapons | Treaties & Regimes | NTI,” accessed August 7, 2021,
“Agreement Between Pakistan and India on Prevention of Air Space Violation • Stimson Center,” Stimson
Center (blog), May 5, 2011,
e) India-Pakistan Expert’s Level Dialogue on Conventional and Nuclear CBMs
The process started in 2004 and remained lasted till 2012. The last round of the
dialogue was held in New Delhi in December 2012. In 2014, India refused to hold further
dialogues decrying the lack of conducive environment trust among both countries. Since
then, the process is confronting a stalemate
4. How Emerging Technologies are Threatening for the Strategic Stability of South
Emerging technologies are changing the dynamics of warfare in South Asia,
resultantly threatening the strategic stability of the region. The introduction of hypersonic
delivery vehicles, anti-ballistic missile defense systems, and ASAT missile tests and
growing incidents of cyber-attacks on critical infrastructure may worsen the security
situation in South Asia. In this regard, the unbridled inclination of super-powers towards
India, raising its Indian status to “Net-Security Providerand signing of defense pacts like
GSOMIA, COMCASA, LEMOA, BECA, might have a detrimental impact on crisis
stability, arms control stability, and deterrence stability in South Asia
If analyzed, the nuclear CBMs between India and Pakistan only address the
traditional threats to the NRR and don’t cater to the threats emanating from the emerging
technologies. This is because these CBMs were concluded when the role of emerging
technologies in the military sphere was limited in South Asia. Moreover, the absence of
frequent dialogues due to strained relations didn’t allow both countries to discuss the issue
of emerging technologies.
Considering the technological development and the extent of application of emerging
technologies in the military sphere in South Asia, out of the10 disruptive technologies
mentioned in Kings College London’s report
, the following five technologies have the
potential to exacerbate the risks associated with the inadvertent or intentional use of
nuclear weapons in the region:
a) Cyber Operations
b) Deepfake Technology
c) Hypersonic Missiles
d) Kinetic Anti-Satellite (ASAT) Capabilities
e) Swarm Drones and AI-Driven Weapons
4.1. Cyber Operations
Cyberspace in South Asia is getting militarized gradually. Indian Army’s Land
Warfare Doctrine of 2018 (LWD-18) also discusses developing cyber warfare and
KS Manjunath, Seema Sridhar, and Beryl Anand, “Indo-Pak Composite Dialogue 2004-05: A Profile,” 2006,
Samran Ali, “Indo-US Foundational Agreements: Contributing to India’s Military Capabilities,” n.d., 6.
Favaro, “Weapons of Mass Distortion: A New Approach to Emerging Technologies, Risk Reduction, and the
Global Nuclear Order.”
information warfare capabilities
. The recent statement of Pakistan’s National Security
Advisor is extremely perturbing in which he has accused India of conducting coordinated
cyber-attacks on Pakistan’s information infrastructure. It was for the first time that a high-
ranking government official of Pakistan blamed India for cyber-attacks
. Another
disturbing aspect of these cyber-attacks is that the hackers are now targeting the critical
infrastructure in South Asia. September 2019 attack on KudanKulam nuclear power plant
in India was the first cyber-attack on a nuclear installation in South Asia. There were
reports that the same malware also targeted the Indian Space and Research Organization
. In September 2020, K-Electric, a major electricity supply company in Karachi
came under ransomware (code-named Netwalker) which rendered its online customer
support system ineffective. The Involvement of non-state actors is extremely dangerous
especially when attribution remains the most challenging aspect of cyber-attacks
Cyberspace in South Asia has also become a platform for spreading fake news,
propaganda, and launching disinformation campaigns, EU DisinfoLab report is a case
study example of such targeted online campaigns launched by India against Pakistan
Another worrying aspect is the online dissemination of sensitive information like flight
routes and uploading imagery of sensitive military installations, missile sites obtained
through IMINT (Imagery Intelligence) and OSINT (Open-Source Intelligence). Leaking
such sensitive information in the public domain may endanger the security of such
strategic locations
4.2. Deep-Fake Technology
Deep-Fake is an upsetting innovation of AI which employs the GAN technique of
deep learning. In this technology, AI algorithms create a fake image, audio, or video clip
having an unidentifiable resemblance with a real person
. Apart from the ethical and
moral dilemma attached to this technology, it could become a major reason behind
political turmoil and instability especially in a situation like Balakot Crisis in 2019. In such
charged environment, a fake video impersonating the Indian Prime Minister declaring war
on Pakistan may have catastrophic consequences. A similar incident also happened in the
past, in 2008 soon after Mumbai Attacks, a hoax call was made to the then President of
Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari, impersonating Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee
Vivek Chadha, “Land Warfare in the Indian Context: Time for a Transformative Shift?,” n.d., 17.
“Mastermind of Johar Town Blast Is an Indian Citizen Associated with RAW: NSA Moeed Yusuf - Pakistan -
DAWN.COM,” accessed August 3, 2021,
“ISRO Was Targeted by the Same Malware That Was Used to Attack NPCIL’s Kudankulam Nuclear Plant:
Report- Technology News, Firstpost,” accessed August 3, 2021,
“K-Electric Struck by ‘Ransomware’ - Newspaper - DAWN.COM, accessed August 3, 2021,
“Indian Chronicles: Deep Dive into a 15-Year Operation Targeting the EU and UN to Serve Indian Interests,”
EU DisinfoLab (blog), accessed August 3, 2021,
Zaki Khalid, “Adverse Impact of IMINT and OSINT on Pak-India Cyber CBMs,” Centre for Strategic and
Contemporary Research (blog), May 19, 2020,
“Artificial Intelligence, Autonomy, and the Risk of Catalytic Nuclear War,” Modern War Institute, March 18,
threatening to attack Pakistan. This phone call put nuclear-armed Pakistan on red alert.
The hoax call was allegedly made by Ahmed Omer Saeed Sheikh, an Al-Qaeda militant
who was detained in Hyderabad jail at that time. This near-war scenario developed
because of the lack of trust and the ineffectiveness of existing channels of communication
between both countries
4.3. Hypersonic Missiles
India’s successful testing of Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle
(HSTDV) in September 2020, was another disturbing development that could have long-
lasting impacts on the strategic stability of the region. Hypersonic missiles can travel
through the atmosphere at Mach 5 (5 times faster than the speed of sound), and can easily
dodge the enemy’s ballistic missile defense systems. Hypersonic missiles can hit the targets
deep inside the enemy territory without getting detected. A hypersonic cruise missile,
traveling at Mach 7 can reach from New Delhi to Lahore in 2.94 minutes. India was in
pursuit of developing hypersonic weapons because of several reasons. Firstly, possessing
such sophisticated technology will help India to become part of the superpower’s club.
Secondly, India may use them to launch counterforce disarming strikes against Pakistan
to eliminate its nuclear arsenal
4.4. Kinetic Anti-Satellite (ASAT) Capabilities
India’s superpower aspirations touched new heights when it conducted an anti-
satellite (ASAT) missile test in March 2019, making it the fourth country after the US,
Russia, and China to have this capability. According to NASA, the Indian ASAT missile
test created a large number of orbital debris which could damage the International Space
Station and other satellites
. During the test, India targeted its satellite orbiting in the Low
Earth Orbit (LEO), 274 km above the earth. According to experts, this test will further
accelerate Indian efforts to develop an advanced Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) System.
Current Indian BMD systems can intercept short-range missiles, however, ASAT missile
testing will enable India to intercept and destroy medium-range and long-range ballistic
missiles. In such a situation, the presence of advanced satellite launch vehicles (SLV) such
as GSLV Mark III with the capacity to carry a payload of 8000 kg into earth’s orbit, makes
the situation more precarious
According to experts, such attempts are aimed at weakening Pakistan’s nuclear
. Pakistan has always remained against all such activities which lead towards
the militarization of outer space and supports the legally binding instruments to promote
norms and responsible behavior in outer space such as PAROS (Prevention of Arms Race
“Jailed Militant`s Hoax Calls Drove India, Pakistan to Brink of War,” DAWN.COM, November 26, 2009,
Dr. Adil Sultan and Itfa Khursheed, “Hypersonic Weapons in South Asia: Implications for Strategic Stability,”
IPRI Journal 21, no. 01 (June 30, 2021): 6181,
“India’s Anti-Satellite Test Created Dangerous Debris, NASA Chief Says | Space,” accessed July 12, 2021,
“GSLV Mk III - ISRO,” accessed August 8, 2021,
Atul Aneja, “Anti-Satellite Test Can Steel India’s Ballistic Missile Defences: Chinese Blog,” The Hindu, April 11,
2019, sec. International,
in Outer Space) in CD, to prevent outer space from becoming another arena of military
4.5. Swarm Drones and AI-Driven Weapons
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is rapidly changing the traditional methods of
warfighting. The recent war between Armenia and Azerbaijan is an example of this fact
that how Israeli Harop loitering munition, also known as the “kamikaze” drones played a
key role in Azerbaijan’s victory
. India is also on the way to equip its military with AI-
driven weapons and gadgets and also demonstrated them during the Annual Army Day
parade in January 2021, during which a swarm of 75 drones took parts and displayed their
ability to strike their targets with high precision. It was for the first time that India made
public its AI-driven arsenal
. This development should be analyzed in conjunction with
the 2019’s aerial skirmish between Pakistan and India which cost India its Mig-21 Bison
and the capturing of a fighter pilot. Swarm drones if inducted, will further embolden India
to conduct a cross-border strike inside Pakistan without the fear of losing its pilot or a
costly fighter aircraft and to avert the ensuing embarrassment.
4.6. Graphical Depiction of Emerging Technology Threats in South Asia
The following diagram depicts the threats associated with emerging technologies
discussed above in a graphical manner.
“Arms Control & Disarmament - Pakistan Mission to the UN, Geneva,” accessed August 7, 2021,
“War in the Caucasus: Lessons,” The Friday Times (blog), November 19, 2020,
“From Surveillance to Combat: Decoding India’s Drone Mission - India News,” accessed August 3, 2021,
5. Regulating the Military Use of Emerging Technologies in South Asia: A Way
5.1. CBMs and Disputes Resolution
India and Pakistan have taken several CBMs to reduce tensions, but the result is
quite disheartening. Michael Krepon best explains the reason behind the failure of CBMs
between both countries. According to him, CBMs between India and Pakistan are not
confidence-building rather competition-building” measures and not meant for reducing
tensions rather gaining political mileage. That is why CBMs have largely been bypassed
Cyber Operations
Targeting Critical Infrastructure
Targeting NC3
Internet Trolling
OSINT & IMINT Data Leakage
AI & Deep-Fakes
Swarm Drones
Ability to conduct cross-border attacks
using unmanned drones
Fake Image, Audio and Video Clips
released during crisis situation
Hypersonic Missiles
Ability to target at hypersonic speed
without getting detected by early
warning systems
Could be utilized to launch cross-
border counter force disarming strikes
against Pakistans nuclear arsenal.
Ability to conduct cross-border attacks.
Technology Under Development.
Kinetic ASAT Capabilities
Helpful in developing advanced
ballistic-missile defense system
It will help India to intercept medium
to long-range missile.
Technology is still nascent.
Technological Threats to Nuclear Risk
Reduction in South Asia
or remained dormant during times of crisis
. Therefore, there is a need to focus on real
drivers of conflicts in South Asia instead of solely relying on CBMs which can’t be a
substitute for dispute resolution. In this regard, Pakistan and India should start discussing
Strategic Restrain Regime (SRR), the proposal offered by Pakistan to India in 1998. The
main points of the proposal were: i) rationalize the number of nuclear forces. ii)
rationalizing the number of conventional forces. iii) not to deploy a ballistic missile defense
system. It’s a low hanging fruit, and could pave the way for the long-lasting stability in the
5.2. Nuclear Risk Reduction Centers (NRRCs)
The establishment of NRRCs will be an innovative step in South Asia. In 1987, the
US and USSR signed the U.S.-Soviet Agreement on the Establishment of Nuclear Risk
Reduction Centers (Amended in 2013), to prevent the crisis from arising by reducing the
risk of miscommunications, and misunderstandings. Under this agreement, NRRCs were
established in Moscow and Washington and were connected via secure and reliable
communication links to enable the fast and timely exchange of critical information and
data (both in text and graphical formats). The NRRCs didn’t replace rather supplemented
the existing channels of strategic communications and hotlines. These NRRCs, which
operate round the clock 365 days a year, exchange notifications relating to nuclear and
conventional arms control, chemical weapons destruction, ballistic missile launch
notifications, and cyber incidents
Considering the lack of trust between India and Pakistan and their tendency to go
up swiftly on the escalation ladder, the formation of NRRCs is indispensable. The need
for these centers should be analyzed in the context of 2019’s Balakot crisis when instead
of utilizing the Foreign Secretaries hotlines, India preferred media and publicly delivered
political statements for messaging. South Asia can’t afford such Indian brinkmanship and
bypassing of existing channels of communication in crises.
India and Pakistan may explore the possibility of establishing NRRCs in Islamabad
and New Delhi connected reliable and encrypted communication links, which will create
an additional and permanent line of communication and remain functional round the
clock 365 days a year. These NRRCs will work similarly to NRRCs in the US and Russia.
Diplomats and technical experts from both sides may be staffed to look after the operations
of the centers. These NRRCs will exchange information relating to missiles flight test
notification, cyber-incidents, information about nuclear accidents, troops' movement for
exercise and air space violations, etc. These centers will be effective to counteract a
situation having the potency to ignite a war between both nuclear-armed neighbors.
Rafi uz Zaman Khan, “Nuclear Risk-Reduction Centers,” in Nuclear Risk Reduction in South Asia, ed. Michael
Krepon (New York: Palgrave Macmillan US, 2004), 17181,
“Pakistan’s Official Position on SRR,” accessed February 4, 2022,
“Risky Business: Four Ways to Ease U.S.-Russian Nuclear Tension | Arms Control Association,” accessed August
3, 2021,
Moreover, NRRCs will also be helpful to portray a positive image of both countries as
responsible nuclear powers committed to deal with nuclear risks
5.3. Establishing Cybersecurity Ecosystem in Pakistan
An effective and resilient cybersecurity ecosystem is indispensable for deterring
cyber threats. Pakistan’s weak cyber threat management and response system are not
capable to effectively deter threats emanating from cyberspace. The recent revelations of
Project Pegasus
and the exposés of the Sophos Labs report published in January 2021
are extremely alarming and expose the fragility of cybersecurity infrastructure in the
country. Pakistan is facing a multitude of cybersecurity challenges in cyberspace. Rising
cyber-attacks against the government and private websites, fake news, targeted
disinformation campaigns, phishing attacks, Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks
are some facets of cybersecurity challenges confronted by the State
. If compared with
other regional countries, Pakistan’s cybersecurity apparatus is one of the weakest in the
region. The 2020 Global Cybersecurity Index (GCI) of ITU (International
Telecommunication Union), which measures the effectiveness of the cybersecurity
infrastructure of a country, ranks Pakistan at 79 out of 193 Member States. The same index
places India at 10th, Bangladesh at 53rd, and Iran at 54th position respectively. It means that
in comparison to regional countries, the cybersecurity infrastructure of Pakistan is not
strong enough to counter cyber threats
Pakistan is in process of upgrading its cybersecurity ecosystem. The approval of the
National Cybersecurity Policy by the federal cabinet is a step in the right direction. This
policy includes almost all the ingredients necessary to build up a resilient cybersecurity
infrastructure in Pakistan. It envisions establishing an institutional framework for
cybersecurity in the country such as the creation of CERTs (Computer Emergency
Response Teams), and nSOC (National Security Operation Center) to protect critical
infrastructure, working on information security standards for the public and private sector,
capacity building, R&D, foreign collaborations, etc. The policy will be instrumental in
hardening the security and better surveillance of Pakistan’s cyberspace
5.4. Global Emerging Technology Regulations: As an Indispensable Component of
Pakistan’s Foreign Policy
Considering the growing risks of entanglement between nuclear and conventional
weapons because of emerging technologies, Pakistan must keep on sensitizing the world
for the need for an open dialogue on norms building and CBMs for the military use of
Chris Gagné, “Nuclear Risk Reduction in South Asia: Building on Common Ground,” in Nuclear Risk Reduction
in South Asia, ed. Michael Krepon (New York: Palgrave Macmillan US, 2004), 4365,
“Pegasus Snooping: Pakistan Probes Whether PM Khan’s Phone Hacked,” accessed August 3, 2021,
“New Android Spyware Targets Users in Pakistan,” Sophos News (blog), January 12, 2021,
Muhammad Riaz Shad, “Cyber Threat Landscape and Readiness Challenge of Pakistan,” n.d., 19.
“Global Cybersecurity Index 2020,” n.d., 172.
“Cabinet Approves National Cyber Security Policy,” The Express Tribune, July 27, 2021,
emerging and frontier technologies. Pakistan has always remained supportive of the idea
of norms building and legally binding instruments to regulate the military use of such
technologies and to stop the further weaponization of outer space, and is one of few
countries which support banning lethally autonomous weapons systems (LAWS)
. In
addition to this, Pakistan must guarantee its presence on multilateral forums such as UN
OEWG (Open-Ended Working Group) and GGE (Group of Governmental Experts) on
developments in the field of information and telecommunications in the Context of
International Security, UN GGE on emerging technologies in areas of LAWS, Conference
on Disarmament (CD) and SCO, etc. Pakistan may initiate bilateral dialogues on
cybersecurity and emerging technologies with China, Russia, Turkey, and other countries
for technical cooperation and formulate a joint strategy to push for the legally binding
instrument to regulate the military use of emerging technologies.
5.5. Consolidating Existing Channels of Communication
Hotlines and other channels of communication between civilian and military
leadership are essential for trust-building and to mitigate the risks associated with the
inadvertent or intentional use of nuclear weapons. India and Pakistan have such hotlines
at DGMOs and Foreign Secretaries levels but remain ineffective during the crisis. The
same thing happened during 2019’s Balakot Crisis when instead of utilizing these
communication lines, India preferred messaging through media and publicly delivered
political statements. Effective utilization of these hotlines has become more indispensable
in the context of challenges posing by deep-fake and other emerging technologies. There
is a need to further consolidate the existing hotlines mechanism between India and
Pakistan and to explore the other modern modes of fast and reliable exchange of critical
information such as NRRCs, to avoid confusion and miscalculation.
5.6. Cyber CBMs Between India and Pakistan
As discussed above that the growing incidents of cyber-attacks on critical
infrastructure in South Asia could be detrimental for the strategic instability and calls for
the need for Cyber CBMs between both countries. Knowing the fact that cyber-attacks
lack the element of attribution and an incident similar to 2019’s cyber-attack on the
Kudankulam nuclear power plant in India or anywhere in South Asia may bring both
countries close to war. Tughral Yamin has envisaged a list of CBMs which can be
instrumental in fostering trust between the nuclear-armed neighbors in cyberspace
Agreement to Refrain from Cyber Targeting of Civilian Nuclear Installations: This
agreement stops both countries from attacking the civilian nuclear sites. Article 1 of the
1988’s Agreement on the Prohibition of Attack against Nuclear Installation and Facilities
between India and Pakistan could be modified by making an explicit reference to cyber-
“Stopping Killer Robots,” Human Rights Watch, August 10, 2020,
Tughral Yamin, “Developing Information-Space Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) between India and
Pakistan,” June 1, 2014,
Agreement to Refrain from Cyber Targeting of Critical Infrastructure: An agreement
similar to the 1988’s Agreement on the Prohibition of Attack against Nuclear Installation
and Facilities may be signed which will prohibit the targeting of critical infrastructure
(Financial Systems, Banking Sector, Electric Grids, Water Supply Systems, Civilian
Aviation System, Health System) by cyber means.
Cyber Hotlines: A cyber hotline similar to the one which exists between Russia and the
may be established which will link together concerned authorities in both countries
to exchange critical information in case of a cyber-attack especially when the identity of
the attacker is unknown.
Agreement to Refrain from Online Propaganda: Both countries may agree to not using
cyberspace for propaganda against each other. In this regard, the Liaquat-Nehru Pact of
1950 could serve as a template for such an agreement
. In this pact, both countries
expressed their commitment to take effective measures against the dissemination of
mischievous news or opinion which may provoke communal hatred and not permit
propaganda which could be detrimental to the territorial integrity and may incite war
between both countries. An agreement with the same provision that applies to cyberspace
may be signed by India and Pakistan.
Pakistan-India Cyber Agreement: Both countries may agree similar to the US-China
Cyber Agreement signed in 2015, which prohibits cyber theft of intellectual property and
commercial secrets, cooperation and exchanging information to hunt down cyber
criminals, promoting norms for responsible state behavior in cyberspace, and establishing
a bilateral high-level cyber dialogue on cybercrimes and related issues
Regional CERTs: Computer Emergency Response Teams (CERTs) under the auspices of
SCO and SAARC may be established. Such a regional approach will help to counter
cybercrimes and trust-building among the member countries.
6. Conclusion
The efficacy of emerging technologies and their role in socio-economic
development is undeniable. Indeed, they have brought ease and comfort in human life and
are essential for the modernization of society. However, their unregulated use in the
military domain is creating a lot of challenges for peace and security especially when they
are utilized to render nuclear deterrence ineffective. Such a scenario threatens strategic
stability and further exacerbates the risks associated with the inadvertent or intentional use
of nuclear weapons.
South Asia is also confronting a similar situation where India is in pursuit to use
hypersonic missile technology to launch preemptive counterforce strikes against Pakistan’s
nuclear arsenal. Growing cyber-attacks on critical infrastructure like nuclear power plants
Sean Gallagher, “US, Russia to Install ‘Cyber-Hotline’ to Prevent Accidental Cyberwar,” Ars Technica, June 18,
“Nehru-Liaquat Agreement, 1950,” n.d.,
Scott W. Harold, “The U.S.-China Cyber Agreement: A Good First Step, August 1, 2016,
are further aggravating the risks of escalation. Deep-Fake technology has added another
dimension to the nuclear risks in South Asia. Therefore, a region that is home to three
nuclear-armed neighbors has a political history marred with conflicts and lack of trust,
where channels of strategic communications are never properly utilized, confusion, and
miscalculation caused due to emerging technologies may end up in a disaster. All such
situation calls for dialogue and CBMs supplemented by sincerer efforts to resolve all
outstanding disputes.
As discussed above, challenges posed by disruptive emerging technologies are not
restricted to South Asia only, it’s a global challenge and needs global efforts. In this regard,
Pakistan has always remained supportive of the legally binding instruments to promote
responsible behaviors and to regulate the use of emerging technologies in the military
sphere. Pakistan is also raising its voice against the rapid weaponization of outer space
and stresses the need for a legally binding instrument like PAROS (Prevention of Arms
Race in Outer Space). Since 1974, Pakistan has offered several proposals to keep South
Asia free of nuclear weapons but met with Indian refusal. Both countries may take several
steps such as the formation of NRRCs, Cyber CBMs, effective utilization of hotlines and
other channels of communication, and signing an agreement that prohibits the cyber
targeting of critical infrastructure. All these measures will be instrumental to mitigate the
nuclear risks and threats associated with the unregulated military use of emerging
Advances in the Field &
Societal Benefits
Human Gut Microbiome and Impact on Health Security
Ayesha Ishaq (School of Life Sciences, Forman Christian College, A Chartered
University), Ferozepur Road Lahore 54600, Pakistan)
Human beings are supraorganisms as they possess a mixture of human and non-human
cells, as elucidated by the ground-breaking study of the Human Microbiome Project. The
reason behind studying this concept was to understand the human microbiome and
underlying facts concerning its role in maintaining overall human health. As humans are
supraorganisms, their genetic landscape is a summation of their own genome and
microbial genome, along with the co-emergence of both with the passage of time. Hence,
for clear understanding of the human genome and its physiological traits; we need to study
the microbial diversity of human and factors that involve in the distribution and evolution
of their microbiota. The findings are expected to enrich our understanding and give us a
new dimension to study the basis behind human evolution that how change in lifestyle
and biosphere impact the overall health of humans due to change in microbial diversity
(Gill et al., 2006; Turnbaugh et al., 2007).
Although microbiota and microbiome are two terms used interchangeably, they are
slightly different. The microbiota means microorganisms existing in a particular
environment. This is studied with the help of the molecular techniques, mainly 16S rRNA
analysis, which helps us to explore the microbial taxa present in different environmental
samples (Cho and Blaser, 2012; Ursell et al., 2012). On the contrary, microbiome means
the habitat as a whole, thus incorporating the biotic and abiotic factors, encompassing
host and microorganism genomes and environmental conditions” (Cho and Blaser, 2012;
Whiteside et al., 2015). Therefore, it is a broader term that further enriches our knowledge
regarding microbial world (and their role in our body) and how this can support the
sustainability in terms of keeping good health that directly links with Sustainable
Development Goal No. 3 - “Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all
Microbiome: a hidden organ explored through latest technologies
The microbiome of humans works as a hidden organ that includes bacteria, archaea, fungi
and viruses. They are called hidden organs because of their role in maintaining health by
strengthening our immune system and helping with digestion as well along with some
other functions (Ley et al., 2008). Among these microorganisms, bacteria have been the
most widely studied so far. The agents of the hidden organ are present in different locations
in the body like inside and on the surface of the gut. The number of these microbes are
1012 1014 which is 10 times of humans own cells. Their genome consists of 3.30 million
numbers of genes which is 150 times greater than our own genes. There are about 1000
bacterial species that have been explored in the gut of humans (Ley et al., 2006a; Qin et al.,
2010). This extended genome presents multigenomic symbiosis that works for both,
translational and metabolic level (Dethlefsen et al., 2007). Owing to these bacteria we
retain certain traits that we might not have on our own otherwise. In addition to this,
microbial niche plays an important role in extracting nutrients from the food we consume
(Turnbaugh et al., 2006).
Advances in the field of bioinformatics have enabled a better understanding of the role of
microbiome through mapping of non-human DNA as well as their phylogenetic
relationship. These techniques give more detailed and authentic taxonomic classification
and recognition of both cultured and uncultured clones (Clarridge, 2004). High throughput
technique are used for sequencing DNA in order to explore microbial niches in different
communities that are present in diverse environments, e.g., in the skin, saliva, intestine
and colon. The majorly studies have been conducted on humans GI tract (Hildebrandt et
al., 2009; Turnbaugh et al., 2010). High throughput sequencing strategies such as
pyrosequencing and Illumina MiSeq gives deep insights to the microbial profile of a subject
sample, but also help us in understanding the ecological relationship between them. These
developments allow us to identify organisms and their relative abundance, along with the
function of these microbes that they perform while living in a particular environment
(given sample) (Handelsman et al., 1998; Langenheder et al., 2010). These technologies
enhance our knowledge regarding microbial world, even though a lot of challenges and
sources of error can occur, nonetheless numerous modifications are made to overcome
such issues and interpret results accurately (Tyler et al., 2014).
Bioinformatics and human microbiome project
Owing to such developments and in the field of genomics, a bioinformatics researcher is
able to answer the number of questions that are raised in the modern era. In addition to
this it has the ability to unlock the doors that were closed between medical science and
environmental microbiology for years. For example, pyrosequencing is preferred to be
used in studying tumor load, due to multiple advantages, its sensitivity is higher than
formal techniques (Sanger) for instance, it needs only 5% of tumor load in a tested sample
to do a same job in a cost-effective manner. Even, the number of computer softwares are
developed for data analysis yet it involves manual work which increased the chances of
human errors. That is why the data analysis for pyrosequencing is most critical steps and
demands precision (Shen and Qin, 2012).
Metagenome of different organs of humans
Microbes that reside in the human body are around 100 trillion in number and most of
them are present in the intestine. That means microbes depend on us for their survival are
10 times more than our own body cells (somatic and germ cells). Owing to this we possess
certain traits which occurs as a result of a symbiotic relationship between microbes and
our body. Our bodily needs and function depend on microbes which plays a vital role.
Thus, for better understanding of the human health and health related issues, we need to
study the role of microbes and their metabolites in human energy metabolism, immune
functions, absorption of nutrient and other physiological functions (Backhed et al., 2005;
Gill et al., 2006).
Gut microbiome and its significance
The gut microbiome is extensively studied because gut microbiome has been found to play
a central role in maintaining homeostasis of the body. The major abnormalities that
happen in our brain, heart, musculoskeletal and metabolic process occurs as a result of GI
dysbiosis (De Vos & Nieuwdorp, 2013; Lloyd-Price et al., 2016). For example, the
Firmicutes were found to present in larger numbers in obese individuals than lean while
Bacteroidetes number plummeted (Ley et al., 2006; Furet et al., 2010).
Figure 1: Abundance of bacteria present in different organ sequence in HMP (HMPC,
2. GI-Stomach Microbiota
Stomach is a vital organ of Gastrointestinal track (GI) that has a peculiar characteristic
due to its acidic environment. The microbes that reside in the stomach are unique due to
ecological environment that it offers to its inhabitants. This organ connects the upper and
lower parts of the GI tract so it has a rich diversity of microbes. But, initially it was thought
that the stomach is free of microbes because of its acidic environment but later traditional
culture based studies proved it wrong. It possesses acid resistant bacteria such as
Streptococcus, Neisseria and Lactobacillus (Marshall et al., 1984; Monstein et al., 2000).
Marshall et al., in 1984 discovered Helicobacter pylori that captures the interest of reseachers
in studying digestive disease.
The molecular techniques, mainly 16S rDNA further enriches our knowledge by
identifying more microbes in the gastric mucosa and those were Enterococcus, Pseudomonas,
Staphylococcus and Stomatococcus. Metagenomics together with 16S rRNA offered high
throughput sequencing technology identified 128 of phylotypes that comes under 8
different classes and also 1056 non H. pylori clones found out. The findings were based on
studies done on 23 patients that were suffering from gastric diseases (Andersson et al.,
2008; Li et al., 2009).
In general, the GI tract microbiota plays a central part in maintaining homeostasis of the
body. The major abnormalities occur in our brain, heart, musculoskeletal and metabolic
1% 0%
9% Blood
GI Tract
Urogenital tract
process occurs as a result of GI dysbiosis. So, the microbes that were explored, helps us to
identify the best way to cure diseases (de Vos and Nieuwdorp, 2013).
2.1. Application of microbiome in different perspective
The microbes of diverse population have been studied since from the last few years. The
researchers have been studying the microbiome from different perspectives and while
seeing different factors that help in shaping and maintenance of microbiome to understand
the variability among different individuals. A plethora of knowledge is available based on
number of factors that change the normal microbiome to a high-risk diseased microbiome.
The factors that contribute the stability or change microbiome are dietary patterns, gender,
ethnicity, age, genetics, environmental factors, and some early life events also play a vital
part in the formation of one’s microbiome (Wade, 2012).
The alteration in the gut microbiome enhances the risk for disease development in a
person. For example, the antibiotic consumption changed microbiome composition and
increases the chances of disease development because the changes favors the development
of pathogen bacteria like Chlostridium difficile (Sekirov et al., 2010; Ferreira et al., 2011;
Willing et al., 2011b; Wlodarska et al., 2011). The animal studies have been shown that
certain microbes presence increased the chances of chronic inflammation (Ferreira et al.,
2011; Willing et al., 2011b; Wlodarska et al., 2011) while other microbial population,
which is responsible to convert luminal compounds into carcinogens enhances the chances
of developing cancer in a person; also showed adverse response against chemotherapy
given (Wallace et al., 2010). This shows that the maintenance of microbiome is a key
component for the maintenance of one’s health or for preparation of one’s body for
fighting against the alarming situation (Virgin and Todd, 2011).
An integrated approach is applied by researchers in which metagenomics data are
compared with meta-transcriptomics, meta-proteomics and meta-metabolomics to clearly
define the impaired metabolic pathways that involve in overall disease progression. By
having a diverse range of knowledge in the future, researchers would be able to come up
with an alternative solution that would help physicians manage diseases in a better way.
For example, in case of C. difficile infection, it is observed that 40% of patients suffer from
a recurrence of disease after taking a standard antibiotic course, which is the conventional
form of treatment. But based on the information of gut microbiome a new treatment
named fecal microbiota transplantation is introduced that applied by medical
professionals. The fecal microbiota of donor installed in the infected individual to cure
infection. This therapy not only recover patients’ health but it is also observed that the
Bacteroidetes number of patients after installation of FMT increased and Proteobacteria
decreased and overall, all microbiota shows more diversity than before transplantation
(Seekatz et al., 2014).
Other than this microbiome study provides us information through which new diagnostic
tools are expected to design that allows early diagnosis and better treatment. Not only this,
but such Integrated approaches are also gold standard in designing personalized medicine
by considering physiological parameters along with whole genome and microbiome
(Wang et al., 2015). Conclusively, the outcome of gut microbiome research and its
correlation with different diseases and treatment is restricted to animal study till date until
safety measure to be implemented on humans are formulated such area need vigorous
research and stringent guidelines to be formulated to make it effective and safe for humans
(Yuan et al., 2021).
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Advances in drug delivery: A Multifaceted collaborative outcome
Muhammad Sohail Arshad1, Jahanzeb Mudassir1, Saman Zafar1, Ambreen Aleem1, Chan
Siok Yee2, Zeeshan Ahmad3
1Faculty of Pharmacy, Bahauddin Zakariya University, Multan, Pakistan
2School of Pharmaceutical Science, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang, Malaysia
3Leicester School of Pharmacy, De Montfort University, Leicester, United Kingdom
During the recent years, drug delivery science has embraced several advancements to
improve the bioavailability of poorly soluble active ingredients, site specific delivery and
manufacturing routines. These developments are primarily attributed to progresses in
materials and manufacturing equipment, improvements in particulate engineering and
design of novel formulations.
Various materials of pharmaceutical interest have been developed by crosslinking,
polymerization and elimination or addition of functional groups in the existing entities.
Physical crosslinking of polyvinylpyrollidone and chemical crosslinking of carboxymethyl
starch and methacrylic acid / divinyl benzene copolymer resulted in super-disintegrants
namely, crospovidone, sodium starch glycolate and polacrilin potassium, respectively.
Copolymerization of esters of acrylic and methacrylic acids yield Eudragit matrix former
for sustained release. Deacetylation of chitin resulted in the formation of chitosan, a
unique drug carrier, capable of modulating the release of a drug. Inclusion of thiol group
to chitosan yielded thiolated chitosan which serves as an efficient mucoadhesive agent.
Addition of organosilane to microporous silica resulted in a hydrophobic matrix.
Pharmaceutical industry of modern age is using co-processed materials or ready to use
excipient combinations to achieve convenient manufacturing with reduced variability.
The material scientists are required to coordinate with computational chemists and
formulation scientists in order to improve the functionalities of various materials that
satisfies the demands of pharmaceutical industry. Furthermore, improvements in
manufacturing processes are admissible to obtain better yields, reduce operational cost and
product rejections. Several advancements have been reported in the manufacturing
equipment, these include design simplification, integration with various technologies,
adaptation of continuous manufacturing and inclusion of process analytical tools
(Kozarewicz and Loftsson 2018).
A tableting press with simplified design (i.e., comprising five segments and ten segment
blocks was introduced to reduce (~70 %) turret setup time, product loss and achieve higher
output (~40%), easy cleaning. The manufacturing facilities integrate atomization and
freeze dryers to achieve efficient drying of thermolabile products. The concept of
continuous manufacturing is appreciable by peers as it offers feedback driven efficient
manufacturing, easier scale-up, reduction in variability and lower residence time in a
manufacturing plant. Process analytical tools / sensors are installed in the equipments for
real time monitoring of the progression of the process, feed-back control of these
manufacturing processes and confirming the quality of final product. Nevertheless, a
successful design of equipment often demands a robust installation, easy cleaning and
maintenance of the machine that is compliant with good manufacturing practice (GMP)
(Arshad et al. 2021).
Particulate engineering has been a key consideration in drug delivery as dissolution, a
primary determinant of bioavailability, depends upon specific surface. Techniques such as
milling, centrifugal spinning, electrospinning, electrohydrodynamic atomization (EHDA)
resulting in micro, nano sized porous morphologies are sought to achieve desired product
performance. Milling and co-milling has been adopted by the pharmaceutical industry
owing to its ease of operation, scalability, and low installation costs. However, drug
stability hazards demand suitable alternates. The use of centrifugal spinning has also been
reported to obtain fibrous masses showing higher dissolution rates (Nasir et al. 2021).
Other techniques commonly practiced for particulate engineering include spray drying and
spray freeze drying. Herein, atomization of solution or suspension is coupled with drying
of the formed particles in a suitable environment (air drying, freeze dying etc). This
technology is used for processing macromolecules, thermolabile and poorly aqueous-
soluble agents.
Modern techniques such as Electrospinning, EHDA promise particle size reduction
without imparting thermal stress. In EHDA technique, a drug solution or suspension is
transformed into particulate systems under the influence of an external electric field
particularly 10-25 kV. The resultant particles exhibit uniform size distribution, high surface
area-to-volume ratio which remit several fold higher drug dissolution rates and
permeability. This technology has been used to prepare particulate systems promising drug
delivery to lungs, brain, posterior regions of eyes and skin (A. Ali et al. 2021).
Despite extensive research in the field of dosage form design, many of the medicaments
such as vaccines, insulin etc. are delivered as injectables. Barriers associated with the
design of oral formulations for these drug substances include denaturation of protein-based
sensitive drugs in the gastric environment as well as hepatic first pass effect. In case of
parenteral delivery, production of biohazardous sharp waste and non-compliant behavior
of patient due to painful skin invasion caused by hypodermic needles makes drug delivery
suboptimal. Dosage forms offering painless, self-administrable drug delivery are desirable.
In this situation transdermal route is considered a promising choice as it meets the primary
requirements of drug administration. However, the conventional patches are somewhat
less efficient in delivering macromolecules as the inherent design of intact stratum
corneum does not permit permeation of proteins.
The researchers have reported advancement in the transdermal route for drug delivery.
The application of exogenous physical principles such as iontophoresis, sonophoresis
increase skin permeability by temporarily disrupting integrity of stratum corneum and
without damaging deeper skin tissues. Therefore, the penetration of otherwise less
permeating polar drugs is improved.
More recently, microneedle based transdermal drug delivery systems capable of piercing
stratum corneum and delivering drugs, vaccines and proteins directly into systemic
circulation without damaging deeper skin tissues have been reported. Microneedle patches
(MNPs) comprise of an array of tiny (25 2000 µm) needles. These micron sized needles
penetrate skin and administer loaded drug without stimulating pain receptors. MNPs are
considered superior to the oral route and conventional hypodermic needles due to their
ability to deliver drugs at a desirable rate in a minimally invasive manner. The feasibility
of various materials including metal, sugar, polymer, ceramic, silicon and glass for
preparing microneedles, with suitable mechanical strength (in terms of capability to breach
skin layers and deliver loaded drug), has been extensively investigated (R. Ali et al. 2020).
Numerous hydrophilic / polar drugs (e.g., cetirizine), antibiotics (e.g., macrolides,
gentamicin), high molecular weight drugs (e.g., heparin sodium, insulin) and intact cells
(e.g., T cells, mesenchymal stem cells), otherwise challenging to deliver transdermally,
have been successfully delivered by using MNPs (Arshad et al. 2019).
Vaccine delivery (both in liquid and solid form) via skin is reported to be more efficacious
as compared to other routes due to the abundance of antigen presenting cells in skin.
MNPs have been successfully utilized for delivering BCG, influenza, tetanus toxoid, rabies
and COVID-19 vaccines. MNPs offer self-administrable drug delivery which can
accelerate immunization programs in resource poor countries, particularly, during
pandemics like COVID-19 (Zafar et al. 2020). MNPs have also been used for the
administration of diagnostic agents such as tuberculin. MNs have been studied for
theragnostic purposes such as diabetes control.
Expansion of operational boundaries of pharmaceutical interest demands a collaborative
interaction of professionals working in the domains of material science, computational
chemistry, designing of machines, particulate engineering and dosage form design. A
higher emphasis on automation of manufacturing techniques and in-situ monitoring of
different unit operations relating to the manufacturing of particulate systems as well as
dosage forms would revolutionize the pharmaceutical industry.
Ali, Amna, Aliyah Zaman, Elshaimaa Sayed, David Evans, Stuart Morgan, Chris Samwell, John
Hall, Muhammad Sohail Arshad, Neenu Simgh, Omar Qutachi, Ming-Wei Chang, and
Zeeshan Ahmad. 2021. "Electrohydrodynamic atomisation driven design and engineering
of opportunistic particulate systems for applications in drug delivery, therapeutics and
pharmaceutics." Advanced Drug Delivery Reviews 176: 113788.
Ali, Radeyah, Prina Mehta, Muhammad Sohail Arshad, Israfil Kucuk, Ming-Wei Chang, and
Zeeshan Ahmad. 2020. "Transdermal microneedlesA materials perspective." AAPS
PharmSciTech 21 (1): 1-14.
Arshad, Muhammad Sohail, Sana Hassan, Amjad Hussain, Nasir Abbas, Israfil Kucuk, Kazem
Nazari, Radeyah Ali, Suleman Ramzan, Ali Alqahtani, Eleftherios G Andriotis,
Dimitrios G Fatouros, Ming-Wei Chang, and Zeeshan Ahmad. 2019. "Improved
transdermal delivery of cetirizine hydrochloride using polymeric microneedles." DARU
Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences 27 (2): 673-681.
Arshad, Muhammad Sohail, Saman Zafar, Bushra Yousef, Yasmine Alyassin, Radeyah Ali, Ali
AlAsiri, Ming-Wei Chang, Zeeshan Ahmad, Amal Ali Elkordy, and Ahmed Faheem.
2021. "A review of emerging technologies enabling improved solid oral dosage form
manufacturing and processing." Advanced Drug Delivery Reviews: 113840.
Kozarewicz, Piotr, and Thorsteinn Loftsson. 2018. "Novel excipientsRegulatory challenges and
perspectivesThe EU insight." International Journal of Pharmaceutics 546 (1-2): 176-179.
Nasir, Sidra, Amjad Hussain, Nasir Abbas, Nadeem Irfan Bukhari, Fahad Hussain, and
Muhammad Sohail Arshad. 2021. "Improved bioavailability of oxcarbazepine, a BCS class
II drug by centrifugal melt spinning: in-vitro and in-vivo implications." International Journal
of Pharmaceutics 604: 120775.
Zafar, Saman, Muhammad Sohail Arshad, Sameen Fatima, Amna Ali, Aliyah Zaman, Elshaimaa
Sayed, Ming-Wei Chang, and Zeeshan Ahmad. 2020. "COVID-19: Current developments
and further opportunities in drug delivery and therapeutics." Pharmaceutics 12 (10): 1-25.
Agriculture 4.0
Professor Michael G.K Jones, Director (WA State Agricultural Biotechnology Centre,
Murdoch University, Australia)
One of the ‘grand challenges’ of our time is to feed the world’s growing population by
2050 and beyond. This must be done in a sustainable manner whilst maintaining the
world’s biodiversity for future generations, against a backdrop of a changing climate and
a desire for a better life by many.
What are the statistics for 2050? An estimated 9.7 billion people, one third of the
agricultural land area per person compared to 1961 and 71% more food needed.
Can we rise to this challenge?
I would argue that through sensible use of new science and technology, and enabling
government policies, we can achieve these goals. But, if national and international red
tape gets in the way, these gaols will be much harder to reach.
On the positive side, there is increasing excitement amongst agricultural researchers that
a series of new technologies now becoming available will enable us to reach the 2050 goals.
These technologies encompass both new genetic technologies (AgriBio), new physical
enabling technologies (AgriTech), and new development in food (FoodTech).
On the AgriBio side, scientific advances include genomics the complete genomic
sequences of all the major crop plants are now available, so that genes that underlie
agricultural traits can be identified as never before, and new ways of combining the best
traits using speed breeding and molecular markers, transgenic (GM) crops and gene
editing (GE) are now being deployed.
Genetically modified (GM) crops, today provide more than 10% of the world’s food, are
consumer safe, and can provide food with enhanced health benefits. Gene editing,
essentially targeted mutagenesis, can deliver many, but not all, of the benefits of GM crops,
whilst avoiding the political stigma of GM crops. In many countries GE crops have been
de-regulated and can be grown in the same way as conventionally bred (manipulated)
crops. There is real excitement about the contributions that GE technologies can make to
future food production.
On the AgriTech side, there are equally exciting advances, marrying the power of the
internet with GPS and the Internet of Things (IoT), auto-steer agricultural vehicles,
robotics, remote sensing, digital agriculture, precision farming and yield mapping. These
technologies enable better use of inputs with less waste and run-off, so benefitting the
To these advances must be added hydroponics and vertical farming. Hydroponic growth
of plants in a controlled environment, also known as protected farming, allows growth of
many food plants all year round under controlled conditions, essential pest free. To this
can be added vertical farming, in which automated hydroponic systems established in high
rise buildings, use LED lights delivering only the wavelengths that plants need for
photosynthesis at the blue and red end of the spectrum (i.e. pink lighting). Vertical farming
can deliver 100 times the productivity per unit area of land, using a fraction of the water
and nutrients, and solar energy to power the LED lights.
High rise plant production can take place in the centre of major cities, and high-rise vertical
farms are already present in conurbations like Tokyo, Shanghai and Dubai, avoiding the
need for longer-distance transport of food.
In arid areas, the same strategies can be used to produce agricultural produce from
seawater and sunlight Sundrop Farms in South Australia is a perfect example.
In the FoodTech area, there are major investments to develop plant-based ‘meat’. Already
major fast food chains are selling plant-based burgers, such as the ‘Impossible Burger’ and
‘Beyond meat’ products. Since more than 60% of all beef in the USA ends up as ground
beef, this can be replaced by plant-based products. Cell cultured meat, fish and diary
products are also in the pipeline, and Solar Foods is developing a food protein (‘Solein’)
from ‘thin air’, using electricity, water, vitamins and mineral and bacteria. All these
technologies aim to produce food or feed products with less water fewer inputs, with a
small land footprint. They can be scaled-up massively in the future.
So, essentially, the technology to feed 9.7 billion people in 2050 and beyond is already
here. What else is in the equation? The answer here lies in national and international
regulations which can limit these developments, and in consumer acceptance and
willingness to adapt their diets. The international harmonisation of regulations is one key,
since in our interconnected world, foodstuffs are a major transported commodity. If an
improved GE or GM product is developed by an exporting nation, importing nations must
have the regulations and policies in place to accept them. Included here is biosecurity and
minimising incursions of new pests and diseases. This is where ‘Science Diplomacy’ is
needed, where decisions on national regulations and international agreements must be
made based on the best scientific evidence, to ensure that the benefits in the pipeline reach
the people who will benefit most.
In conclusion, the best science and technology, deployed where needed, can meet the
world’s demands for food and fibre, whilst still preserving biodiversity and wilderness
areas. But this is predicated on the removal of non-tariff trade barriers, and evidence-based
regulatory structures, harmonised internationally, the latter to be achieved by Science
Regulatory Perspectives
Pakistan-China Cooperation: A [Nuclear] Regulator Perspective
Dr. Hamid Saeed Raza, Noreen Iftakhar, Faiza Batool (Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory
Nuclear regulators worldwide cooperate with each other to enhance safety and
security of nuclear facilities. Bilateral collaboration between nuclear regulators helps in
sharing kno