After the real threat of nuclear terrorism, the world is now faced with yet another emerging challenge from autonomous weapons like drones or weaponised robots which can be programmed to identify and attack any target. Autonomous weapon systems are those which can independently search, identify and attack targets without human intervention. Taking note of this new and growing threat, a top official of a global agency which aims to ensure humanitarian protection and assistance for victims of war and other situations of violence has said India can play a big role in diplomacy to maintain human control over the use of such autonomous weapons. Hugo Slim, Head of Policy and Humanitarian Diplomacy of Division of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), stressed the need to form an inter-governmental agreement on good practices, operational principles in use of autonomous weapons. “We need States to come together to form an inter-governmental agreement soon about what is good practice and good operational principles in design, creation and use of autonomous weapons,” he told PTI in an interview here. “We believe very strongly that we must maintain human control in this modern form of weapons. We have to keep humans in the loop,” he said.
Stressing that India was playing a very “responsible global role” in development of humanitarian norms for these new weapons, he said New Delhi could collaborate with agencies working on maintaining human control on the use of autonomous weapons. Slim said the collaboration between the Indian government and the ICRC was a very constructive example of humanitarian diplomacy. “India is a very significant power in the world which has a unique position between east and west. India can play a great part in humanitarian diplomacy and for supporting and innovating humanitarian norms in the years ahead,” he said.
India had last year chaired the UN’s first official talks on the use of autonomous weapons, where Permanent Representative to the Conference on Disarmament Amandeep Gill had said there were varying opinions on the mechanics through which “human control” must govern these deadly weapons.
Expressing concern over the weaponisation of improvised commercial drones by non-State Armed Groups (NSAGs), Slim said the diversification, proliferation and increasing autonomy of these weapons was happening fast. “This rapid escalation is taking place alongside impressive new progress in deep thinking in game-playing machines, which may soon represent a step change in machine autonomy,” he said in the interview on the sidelines of the recent Raisina Dialogue here.
Slim said the ICRC wanted that nations should focus on three key operating principles for autonomous weapons to ensure minimum human control of these critical functions: predictability, reliability and human supervision. “A weapons system must have a level of human supervision which can take responsibility for the machine and which has the ability to intervene after activation of the machine,” he added.