Geospatial Policy (GSP) 2022 is good for promoting digital economy, private industry, innovations, blue economy, integrating multiple agencies dealing with geospatial data, innovation and the like but the requirements of national security and of the Armed Forces have been totally ignored
|The Author is Former Director General of Information Systems and A Special Forces Veteran, Indian Army|
The National Geospatial Policy (GSP) 2022 lays down milestones by 2025, 2030 and 2035 for democratising data to enhance comercialisaton with value added services, redefining the National Geodotic Framework with online access, national and sub-national geospatial management with government, industry, academia and public participation, high resolution survey, mapping and Digital Elevation Model (DEM), Geospatial Knowledge Infrastructure (GKI) and high resolution Bathymetris Data of inland waters, sea-surface, deep sea to support Blue Economy. Focus of the policy is to use geospatial technology for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), instill accountability and efficiency, promote Atmanirbhar Bharat, Integrated Geospatial Information Framework (IGIF), Data and ICT, innovation, open standards, and ease of doing business.
A national-level Geospatial Data Promotion and Development Committee (GDPC) would replace the National Spatial Data Committee (NSDC). Survey of India (SoI) is to be responsible for developing and operating the National Geospatial Data Registry (NGDR) and the Unique Geospatial Interface (UGI) in collaboration with others. With mapping already deregulated, GSP is to replace the National Map Policy 2005 and further simplify survey by aircraft and drones. Only generation/maintenance of minimal foundational data/core would be performed by the SoI while continuing to be the overarching nodal agency for geospatial data.
The Survey of India (SoI) is to become a civilian entity to facilitate a vibrant domestic geospatial services industry. Defence stream of recruitment in Survey of India (SoI) is to be discontinued and defence stream officers seconded to SoI permanently reverted to the Military.
The Survey of India (SoI) is to become a civilian entity to facilitate a vibrant domestic geospatial services industry. Defence stream of recruitment in Survey of India (SoI) is to be discontinued and defence stream officers seconded to SoI permanently reverted to the Military. The 17-strong Geospatial Data Promotion Development Committee (GDPFC) is to have only one member from Ministry of Defence (MoD) not below the rank of joint secretary. Geospatial Policy (GSP) 2022 is good for promoting digital economy, private industry, innovations, blue economy, integrating multiple agencies dealing with geospatial data, innovation and the like but the requirements of national security and of the Armed Forces have been totally ignored. This is a serious flaw. The inside news is that the policy was crafted by the Department of Science & Technology (DST) within the Ministry of Science of Technology and the DST blatantly says that the Armed Forces are not their responsibility.
With rapid advances in technology and advanced weapons and weapon systems including unmanned and hypersonic platforms the relevance of geospatial data will keep growing in modern wars. All information systems use geospatial data. No weapon system can be optimised without an appropriate Geographic Information System (GIS). The confluence of GIS with OIS and management information system (MIS) is essential for capacity building for acquiring network centric warfare (NCW) capabilities.
GEOINT comprises imagery, imagery intelligence (IMINT) and geospatial information. The full utility of GEOINT comes from the integration of all three, which results in more comprehensive, tailored geospatial intelligence products for meeting the wider requirements of the Military, giving them the ability to rapidly respond to threats providing geo-referenced visual and data products that serve as foundation and common frame of reference. These products include interactive maps, virtual flythrough and walk-through mission scenarios.
Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the Military Survey have little assets worth the name and the GSP is cutting the only link Military Survey has with the SoI
Better geospatial data is available through open source but look at the US forces deployed abroad where the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) within the Department of Defence (DoD) supplies the base geospatial data which is supplemented by the Army Geospatial Centre (AGC)/National Air and Space Intelligence Centre (NASIC)/National Ground Intelligence Centre (NGIC)/National Maritime Intelligence-Integration Office (NMIO) as required. In our case, the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the Military Survey have little assets worth the name and the GSP is cutting the only link Military Survey has with the SoI.
With better resources and finances by virtue of being a government organisation, technology adaptation in the SoI is far better than Military Survey. This demands that the SoI-Military Survey bond should be strengthened. But the government appears intent on washing its hands off national security with reference to geospatial data and Armed Forces requirements by making SoI a peripheral nodal agency, stopping recruitment from the forces and revert all military personnel. Reducing the role of SoI and making it a purely civilian entity appears an attempt to avoid responsibility and accountability – leaving the military high and dry to deal directly with the private sector. With mounting threats to India’s national security, Chinese intrusions in India and Bhutan, plus Pakistan, Nepal and Myanmar drawn into China’s strategic sphere, wouldn’t this be treason?
The general responsibilities of the SoI prior to issue of the GSP included: adviser to GoI on all cartographic related matters; geo names; scrutiny and certification of maps; surveys, demarcation of borders; oceanic tidal predictions; research and development, and; the important function of training central and state government departments as well as from foreign countries. The private sector is thrilled that the Armed Forces would be wholly dependent on them but where is the responsibility and role of the MoD in geospatial data acquisition?
The private sector is thrilled that the Armed Forces would be wholly dependent on them but where is the responsibility and role of the MoD in geospatial data acquisition?
Is the government advertently or inadvertently ignoring geospatial requirements of the Armed Forces? Do those who crafted the GSP understand that security of geospatial data required by the military is more complex and different than relational geospatial data; requiring data organisation and structures to deny data manipulation and theft that would seriously compromise national security? Do we expect the sole MoD member in the GDPDC to ensure and safeguard all this? Has this policy been vetted by the NSA and the NSCS; because if it has, then the implications for national security are even graver?
Prudence demands that the government immediately review the GSP to scrutinise and incorporate the national security aspects, meet the geospatial requirements of Armed Forces or rather the Security Sector per se and ensure foolproof security against geospatial data manipulation and theft. The delinking of SoI from Military Survey and stopping postings of military personnel in SoI is detrimental to operational requirements, which needs to be reversed.