A string of high-profile cyberattacks in recent months has exposed vulnerabilities in the critical infrastructure of even advanced nations. This has reinforced the need for improved defences against actual, and potential, cyberattacks by all countries across continents.
America under attack
Several high-profile cyberattacks were reported from the United States during the past several months. Towards the end of 2020, for instance, a major cyberattack headlined ‘SolarWinds’ — and believed to have been sponsored from Russia — had rocked the U.S. It involved data breaches across several wings of the U.S. government, including defence, energy and state. Before the U.S. could even recover from this breach, thousands of U.S. organisations were hacked in early 2021 in an unusually aggressive cyberattack, by a Chinese group Hafnium, which had exploited serious flaws in Microsoft’s software, thus gaining remote control over affected systems.
In quick succession, thereafter, the U.S. has witnessed three more major attacks: an audacious ransomware attack by Russia/East Europe-based cybercriminals, styled DarkSide, on Colonial Pipeline (which is the main supplier of oil to the U.S. East Coast), compelling the company to temporarily shut down operations. The siege was lifted after Colonial Pipeline paid out several million dollars as ransom to unlock its computers and release its files. There are reports of the ransom being received in bitcoins which was later seized by the U.S government. Another Russia-backed group, Nobellium, next launched a phishing attack on 3,000 e-mail accounts, targeting USAID and several other organisations. Early this month, JBS SA, the U.S. subsidiary of a Brazilian meat processing company, was the target of a ransomware attack; the company also paid a ransom in millions.
Now, civilian targets
These attacks were all primarily on civilian targets, though each one was of critical importance. Obviously cyber, which is often referred to as the fifth domain/dimension of warfare, is now largely being employed against civilian targets, bringing the war into our homes. Most nations have been concentrating till date mainly on erecting cyber defences to protect military and strategic targets, but this will now need to change. The obsession of military cyber planners has been to erect defences against software vulnerabilities referred to as ‘Zero-day’, that had the capability to cripple a system and could lie undetected for a long time. (The most celebrated Zero-day software of this kind to date is Stuxnet, which almost crippled Iran’s uranium enrichment programme some years back). Today, other Zero-day software, no doubt exist, though little is known about them. What is, however, evident is that a whole new market currently exists for Zero day software outside the military domain, and the world must prepare for this eventuality.
Defending civilian targets, and more so critical infrastructure, against cyberattacks such as ransomware and phishing, including spear phishing, apart from unknown Zero day software, is almost certain to stretch the capability and resources of governments across the globe, somewhat in the manner that nations have been forced to find the resources and the methods to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. One related problem is that the distinction between military and civilian targets is increasingly getting erased and the consequences of this could be indeterminate. For instance, the 2012 cyberattack on Aramco, employing the Shamoon virus, which wiped out the memories of 30,000 computers of the Saudi Aramco Oil Corporation, has ever since been one reason for the very frosty relations between different countries in West Asia and the Gulf region.
Cyber warfare is replete with several damaging methodologies. In the civilian domain, two key manifestations of the ‘cat and mouse game’ of cyber warfare today, are ransomware and phishing, including spear phishing. Ransomware attacks have skyrocketed, with demands and payments going into multi-millions of dollars. India figures prominently in this list, being one of the most affected. Also experts believe that of late, the recovery cost from the impact of a ransomware attack — in India, for example, has tripled — and mid-sized companies, in particular, today face a catastrophic situation, if attacked, and may even have to cease operations. Thus, the need to be aware of the nature of the cyber threat to their businesses and take adequate precautionary measures, has become extremely vital. Banking and financial services were most prone to ransomware attacks till date, but oil, electricity grids, and lately, health care, have begun to figure prominently.
Zeroing in on health care
What is specially worrisome at this time, when a pandemic is raging, is the number of cyberattacks on health-care systems. With data becoming a vital element in today’s world, personal information has become a vital commodity. One of the more vulnerable areas where data tends to be linked to a specific individual is in health care. Compromised ‘health information’ is proving to be a vital commodity for use by cybercriminals. All indications are that cybercriminals are increasingly targeting a nation’s health-care system and trying to gain access to patients’ data. The available data aggravates the risk not only to the individual but also to entire communities.
It would be a mistake to believe that we can hope for a respite from cyberattacks such as ransomware and phishing. Cybercriminals are becoming more sophisticated, and are now engaged in stealing sensitive data in targeted computers before launching a ransomware attack. This is resulting in a kind of ‘double jeopardy’ for the targeted victim. Also, today’s cybercriminals, specially those specialising in ransomware and similar attacks, are different from the ordinary run-of-the-mill criminals. Many are known to practise ‘reverse engineering’ and employ ‘penetration testers’ to probe high secure networks.
The bad news is that the cyber landscape is poised to undergo more fundamental changes. Motivation for cyberattacks vary: for (some) nation states, the motivation is geopolitical transformation; for cybercriminals, it is increased profits; for terror groups, the motivation remains much the same, but the risk factor may be lower. However, it is ‘insider threats’ — due to discontent with the management or for personal reasons — that could well become an omnipotent reality.
Need for data protection
Cybersecurity essentially hinges on data protection. As data becomes the world’s most precious commodity, attacks on data and data systems are bound to intensify. Reportedly, we create more than three quintillion bytes of data everyday (some put it at over 2.5 quintillion) — with several billion devices interconnected to billions of end point devices exchanging petabytes of sensitive data, on the network. This is only bound to grow. Ensuring data protection could, hence, prove to be a rather thankless task, complicating the lives of Information and other security professionals.
The data life cycle can broadly be classified into data at rest (when it is being created and stored), data in motion (when it is being transmitted across insecure and uncontrolled networks), and data in use (when it is being consumed). Constant exposure lends itself to ever increasing data thefts and abuse. With mobile and cloud computing expanding rapidly, and also given the nature of the on-going pandemic, cybersecurity professionals are now engaged in building a ‘Zero Trust Based Environment’,viz.,zero trust on end point devices, zero trust on identity, and zero trust on the network to protect all sensitive data. What is of interest is that there do exist quite a few niche companies today, which have developed (or are developing) newer technologies to create a Zero Trust Based environment employing: software defined solutions for agile perimeter security, secure gateways, cloud access security, privileged access management, threat intelligence platforms, static and dynamic data masking, etc. The moot point is whether not only those in authority but even more so those in the world of business, (specially oil and finance, and specifically health care) are aware of this — and, more important, are ready to utilise these technologies — to ward-off a cyberattack and safeguard their data.
Preparation is needed
Building deep technology in cyber is essential. New technologies such as artificial intelligence, Machine learning and quantum computing, also present new opportunities. Nations that are adequately prepared — conceptually and technologically — and have made rapid progress in artificial intelligence and quantum computing and the like will have a clear advantage over states that lag behind in these fields. Pressure also needs to be put on officials in the public domain, as also company boards, to carry out regular vulnerability assessments and create necessary awareness of the growing cyber threat. In the end, it might be appropriate to quote IBM Chairman, Arvind Krishna, that cybersecurity will be “the pressing issue of this decade” and that “value lies in the data and people are going to come after that data”.
M.K. Narayanan, currently Executive Chairman of CyQureX Pvt. Ltd., a U.K.-U.S.A. cybersecurity joint venture, is a former National Security Adviser and a former Governor of West Bengal
COVID-19 has made it clear that our traditional imagination of national security is no longer credible. The preparedness of nation states and tenuous global security arrangements were insufficient in dealing with the crisis. The future of national security studies, therefore, will be forced to undergo a paradigm shift if it must retain any policy impact at all — it would need to rethink the sources of insecurity, to begin with. The growth of exponential technologies such as synthetic biology, artificial intelligence and nanotechnology is bound to change the theory and practice of national security. COVID-19 has quickened the inevitable.
Among the exponential technologies shaping the world today, the biological revolution is of exceptional importance. The rapid rise of synthetic biology in the last two decades and its still-to-be-understood implications haven’t received sufficient attention from the security studies or policy communities. COVID-19 has further highlighted the biosecurity concerns of synthetic biology. The argument is not that COVID-19 originated in a lab, but that dangerous bio-weapons can come from labs.
That new organisms, biological parts and devices can be created or that existing natural life forms can be redesigned should ideally be the subject matter for scientists to concern themselves with or for ethicists to debate. But today, there is a growing realisation that exponential technologies have hitherto unforeseen national and global security implications. In 2014, for instance, the U.S. Department of Defense categorised synthetic biology as one of the six ‘disruptive basic research areas’ even though linkage between national security and synthetic biology is yet to become an agenda item in mainstream national security debates.
Synthetic biology is a revolutionary technology which can help us manipulate biological organisms and processes for human betterment, especially in treating diseases, by re-engineering cells. But it is a double-edged sword. There are many risks associated with the technology which must be addressed before it becomes widely accessible. For one, there is the possibility of deliberate misuse. While the technology is still not easily accessible, the day is not far off when such technologies won’t be difficult to access. There is a need to carefully review, especially in the wake of the pandemic, the biosecurity systems in place where such technologies are in use. Accidental leaks of experimental pathogens are another concern. Insufficiently trained staff, inadequately safeguarded facilities, and lack of proper protocols could all be behind such leaks. The reality is that there has been very little focus on threats emanating from biological sources. Contrast this with the focus on nuclear weapons, facilities and material. Not only are they tightly controlled but are also the subject of strong global regimes. This is despite the fact that a well-orchestrated biological attack could have serious implications even though it would be less ‘spectacular’ since its effects are less immediate. This was before synthetic biology came into play. A well-planned attack using highly infectious pathogens synthetically engineered in a lab could be disastrous.
What if such attacks are contemplated and carried out by state actors against adversaries? How easy would it be to pin responsibility on a specific actor if the incubation period is high and the pathogen can be modified to hide its origin? Unlike the nuclear domain, the fields of biology or synthetic biology are not regulated internationally despite growing military interest in synthetic biology applications and their potential misuse.
The ‘weapon of mass destruction’ (WMD) capability of bio-weapons has been long recognised but very little has been done by the international community about it. Of the three types of WMD, nuclear weapons have received the maximum safety and security attention given the treaty and institutional arrangements associated with it. Chemical weapons come next. There is an international convention and an implementing body. However, when it comes to bio-weapons, all we have is the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) of 1972 with no implementing body. The BTWC does not have a verification clause, nor does it have clearly laid down rules and procedures to guide research in this field.
The dilemma is evident in Article 1 of the BTWC itself which bans “microbial or other biological agents, or toxins, whatever their origin or method of production” that “have no justification for prophylactic, protective or other peaceful purposes”. In other words, while bio-weapons are banned, research for medical and bio-defence purposes are allowed. While this is understandable, the problem is that there is a thin line between bio-defence research and bio-weapons research. Since bio-defence research routinely uses pathogens and toxins for experimental purposes, processes, know-how and outcomes of bio-defence research could potentially be used to create bio-weapons, especially with the new advancements in synthetic biology. More so as the pharmaceutical industry has vehemently opposed any intrusive inspection regime.
An Ad Hoc Group set up in 1994 to negotiate a Protocol to enhance the transparency of treaty-relevant biological facilities and activities to help deter violations of the BTWC submitted a report at the Fifth BTWC Review Conference in 2001 but was not accepted by the member states. The initiative has since been shelved.
Pandemics have also highlighted that the traditional distinction at the international institutional level between biological weapons (a field governed by the BTWC) and diseases (a domain under the World Health Organization) may not be useful anymore. There needs to be more conversation between health specialists and bio-weapons/defence specialists.
The November 2021 BTWC review conference must take stock of the advances in the field, address the thinning line between biotechnology research and bio-weapons research, and consider international measures for monitoring and verification.
India uniquely unprepared
India is at a uniquely disadvantaged position compared to the more developed countries in this area given poor disease surveillance, insufficient coordination among various government departments dealing with biosecurity issues, and the pathetic state of the healthcare system.
India has multiple institutions dealing with biosafety and biosecurity threats but there is no coordination among them. For instance, implementation of biosafety guidelines is the responsibility of the Science and Technology Ministry and the Environment Ministry. However, labs dealing with biological research are set up under the Indian Council of Medical Research and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, which are under the Ministries of Health and Agriculture, respectively.
This highlights two issues pertaining directly to biosecurity. One, the multiplicity of bodies and ministers makes coordination difficult, especially in the absence of an empowered coordinating body. Two, given the rising risk of diseases of zoonotic origin, the traditional ministry-wise separation might not be useful. Another important question is whether India, with its porous borders and ill-trained border control institutions, is prepared for defending against pathogens or dangerous biological organisms or agents arriving from abroad. COVID-19 should serve as a wake-up call.
Happymon Jacob is Associate Professor at the School of International Studies, JNU
For nearly two decades, I have been concurrently looking at the annual Reuters Memorial Lecture delivered at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, University of Oxford, and the Pulitzer Prizes for journalism administered by Columbia University. While the prizes represent the best practices in informing the public, the lecture deals with “a critical issue facing the news industry” and is delivered by “someone at the highest level of journalism”. The concurrent reading, in a sense, becomes a form of SWOT analysis. The lectures and prizes give insights into the current status of journalism and provide valuable clues on navigating its choppy waters.
The vulnerability of journalism
It is disheartening to record that this year, both the Reuters Memorial Lecture and the Pulitzer Prizes have become veritable documents of the vulnerability of journalism. In April 2020, Nadja Drost wrote a long-form report inThe California Sunday Magazinetitled “When can we really rest?” It was on migrants crossing the Colombia-Panama border, which is said to be one of the most dangerous journeys in the world, to reach the U.S. On June 11, 2021, Ms. Drost, a freelance writer, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing for her article, which the Pulitzer committee described as “a brave and gripping account of global migration that documents a group’s journey on foot through the Darién Gap, one of the most dangerous migrant routes in the world”.
The tragedy is thatThe California Sunday Magazineno longer exists. Last June, it stopped its print edition. And as the COVID-19 pandemic continued to take its toll, the magazine stopped publishing online and posting on social media at the end of September. Kristen Hare of Poynter pointed out the historic significance of this development. She wrote: “At least in the last 10 years, this is the first example we can find of a publication closing before it won a Pulitzer.” She also pointed out that in the U.S., during the pandemic, more than 75 newsrooms closed, including some that were more than 100 years old. This pandemic-induced bloodbath in journalism is evident in India too.
If the Pulitzer Prize has gone to a defunct publication that was dedicated to long-form journalism, the Reuters Memorial Lecture brought out the multiple pressures faced by journalists in pursuing their vocation in a free and independent manner. On June 8, Brazilian journalist Patrícia Campos Mello delivered the annual lecture drawing from her series of investigative pieces on the rise of disinformation in Brazil. While the focus of her talk was Brazil, it is impossible not to draw parallels with what we are witnessing in India. She said: “Lies are the foundation of the health tragedy we are going through and lies are the cornerstone of our incoming political disaster. Professional journalism is one of the last barriers against the collapse of democracy in Brazil and in many other countries struggling with an avalanche of lies. Meticulously checked information, careful and balanced reporting, and in-depth investigations are the only hope to bring back reality to many countries where facts became malleable and often secondary to opinions and beliefs.”
This is true in India too. We have seen gross under-reporting of the rate of COVID-19 infections and mortality. We have seen numbers, including on the availability of vaccines, being fudged. We are in an unenviable position where the Union government has issued a directive asking the States not to divulge the details about the vaccine stock in hand as these details are “sensitive information”.
Ms. Mello pointed out that today, the muzzling of the press has taken on a different hue. She called it “censorship by noise and defamation”. It is a trait that has been normalised in India. She said: “Censorship, in this new world, doesn’t require the suppression of information. On the one hand, populist leaders flood social media, messaging apps, and the internet in general with the version of facts they want to prevail – so that it drowns out investigations and negative news. It’s the so-called censorship by noise. Then, for that manipulation of public opinion to succeed, these digital populist leaders need to delegitimise professional journalism.”
The act of delegitimising professional journalism undermines news media’s status as the fourth estate and denies it the crucial watchdog role. This blatant institutional capture not only ruptures our democratic fabric but also irreparably damages it.
The G7 summit in Cornwall, U.K., was noteworthy for the cohesive vibe among member states, buttressed by their shared identity of being democracies. After four years of irrelevance wrought by the illiberal former U.S. President, Donald Trump, this club of rich, industrialised countries has got a new lease of life under his liberal successor, Joe Biden, who believes that democracies should unite against authoritarian rivals.
In Mr. Biden’s Manichean vision, the world is at an “inflection point between those who argue that autocracy is the best way forward and those who understand that democracy is essential”. Disproving the “false narrative” that dictatorships are faster and more efficient, and refuting autocrats who claim that the age of democracy is over, are the driving forces of Mr. Biden’s foreign policy.
At the Cornwall summit, his non-confrontational approach to his G7 counterparts signaled democracies can manage their differences, team up multilaterally and push back the influence and muscle-flexing of China and Russia.
An expanded coalition
To make sure that the messaging about team-building by democracies went across, the host of the Cornwall summit, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, invited four other democracies as guest participants – Australia, India, South Korea and South Africa. The combination of the G7 and the first three of these invitees has drawn attention to an expanded ‘D10’ coalition of democracies. Mr. Biden’s Coordinator for the Indo-Pacific, Kurt Campbell, promotes D10 as a necessary instrument to “bridge European and regional (Asian) approaches to Chinese challenges.”
Since Japan is the only democracy from Asia within the G7, forging a D10 with Australia, India and South Korea could corral the U.S.’s European and Indo-Pacific allies to present a transcontinental counterweight to China. A 78-year-old who built his career in American politics during the Cold War, Mr. Biden carries the liberal memories of that period when the U.S. mobilised allies across continents to beat back the Soviet Union.
But what is different with today’s ‘new Cold War’ is that power is more diffused around the world and economic interdependence transcends a neat division of the world into black (dictatorships) and white (democracies). For example, despite being a U.S. ally and a democracy, South Korea is wary of joining a formal D10 or Quad-plus alliance because its economy is interwoven with that of China.
India, which has been wooing the Europeans to bring their economic and military heft to the Indo-Pacific, would be happy to see a combined trans-Atlantic and Indo-Pacific formation like D10 that could counterbalance Chinese hegemony. But it cannot afford to alienate friendly undemocratic powers like Vietnam, Iran or Russia, all of which are vectors for India’s ambitions of becoming a ‘leading power’ in the world. And for that matter, the Americans and Europeans are themselves not undiluted upholders of democracy. The U.S.’s allies in West Asia remain notoriously authoritarian, and European countries still cultivate client dictatorships in Africa.
As every democratic power has some authoritarian partners, should the Biden-led pitch for a “summit of democracies” and “contest with autocracies worldwide” be treated as hypocritical rhetoric? Politics is the art of the possible and so is geopolitics. The G7 and D10 are not idealistic alliances to spread democracy everywhere. They have to be selective in targeting adversaries and strike a balance among moral values, geo-strategic needs, and the complexities of the present multipolar world order. To the extent that cementing relationships with the principle of democracy helps corner specific undemocratic foes, there is a practical utility to D10. But these concepts cannot metastasise into rigid structures waging holy war between good and evil. Navigating ambiguities with nuanced policies is the key.
Sreeram Chaulia is a Professor and Dean at the Jindal School of International Affairs
Over 17 months after WHO first reported a cluster of cases of pneumonia of unknown cause in Wuhan, China, scientists are yet to determine with certainty how the SARS-CoV-2 virus emerged. Much like other viruses, SARS-CoV-2 too could have a natural origin or somehow escaped from the coronavirus research lab in Wuhan, the epicentre of the COVID-19 outbreak. With no hard scientific evidence available to confirm the lab leak hypothesis, there are some scientific leads that support a natural origin. If it is a zoonotic spillover, the virus could have either directly crossed over from bats to humans or through an intermediate host. But till date, neither the bat species that hosts the SARS-CoV-2 virus nor the intermediate host has been found. China’s secrecy and delay in reporting the Wuhan outbreak and in finding the natural host or the intermediary have further fuelled the lab spillover hypothesis. Finding the host animal can be daunting. While the civet cat and dromedary camel were quickly identified to be the intermediate hosts of SARS and MERS, respectively, it took years to identify the horseshoe bat that harbours SARS virus strains. To date, a complete Ebola virus has never been isolated from an animal source.
If the virus had been bioengineered, the genome sequence would carry tell-tale signs. But scientists have not found any signature of genetic manipulation. While a particular site (furin cleavage) on the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein that allows the virus to infect the cells has been cited as evidence of bioengineering, the fact is that it is not unique to SARS-CoV-2. A combination of nucleotides in the furin cleavage site that encode for a particular amino acid — another feature that is forwarded as supporting laboratory manipulation — too has been shown to be not unique. For instance, the nucleotide combination encoding for the amino acid is present in other sites of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and in the 2003 SARS virus. The possibility of SARS-CoV-2 evolving via cell culture appears bleak as scientists have found the virus losing features key to transmission and virulence unless cultured using new methods. Reports of three Wuhan lab researchers falling ill in November 2019 by itself does not prove a lab leak hypothesis. There is no evidence that they were infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and even if they were, it is necessary to prove that it happened from inside the lab. In the absence of conclusive evidence to support either hypothesis so far, a thorough investigation is needed. While the inquiry by the U.S. intelligence might provide clues, a scientific investigation is more likely to help reach closure; China’s cooperation, therefore, becomes vital and politicising the virus origin is not going to help.
The latest factory output data released by the National Statistical Office is yet another sign of the rocky start that the economy is having in the new fiscal year. April’s Index of Industrial Production (IIP) estimates show all three sectoral constituents of the index — mining, manufacturing and electricity — suffered reverses, as output slid below the preceding month’s levels. With the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic increasing in intensity that month and several key industrial hubs coming under renewed local lockdowns, all six end-use categories — primary, capital, intermediate and construction goods and consumer durables and non-durables — endured month-on-month contractions. Manufacturing, which accounts for 77.6% of the IIP, saw production shrink 12.6% from March, and contributed significantly to a 13% sequential contraction in overall industrial output. The NSO advised against drawing a year-on-year comparison, which it said would be affected by the fact that the nationwide lockdown had prevented many establishments from operating in April 2020. Figures from April 2019 indicate the IIP registered a marginal 0.08% growth, aided by a 6.8% increase in electricity output from two years earlier. However, from the pre-pandemic level, manufacturing shrank 0.9%, reflecting the deep rut it finds itself in. Output of capital goods and consumer durables also lagged the corresponding 2019 levels by 14.3% and 11.6%, respectively, signalling that the outlook for investment in production capacity and discretionary consumption remains disconcertingly weak.
Consumer non-durables, comprising household essentials, witnessed an almost 11% contraction from March, testifying to the demand destruction that has accompanied the second wave. To be sure, the IIP arrives with a lag of six weeks and may likely be viewed as more of an indicator of past economic activity than as a tool to assist in providing an accurate prognosis. Still, other data from May, including manufacturing and services PMI and retail automobile sales, underline the extent to which economic activity has been constrained since the start of this quarter. With IHS Markit’s surveys showing manufacturing stagnating last month and services contracting for the first time in eight months, the Composite PMI Output Index slid from 55.4 in April to 48.1 in May indicating a moderate reduction in activity. New vehicle registrations more than halved in May from the previous month, another tell-tale sign of the demand drought. With job losses accelerating, and consumer spending hit by a combination of falling real incomes, depleted savings and increasing health-care costs, the broader outlook for a near-term revival in consumption-led demand appears bleak right now. To ensure an abiding recovery, the government needs to expedite targeted, demand-creating fiscal support measures and drastically quicken the pace of vaccinations.
London, June 9 - The decision to decontrol agriculture has caused great consternation amongst the agricultural community. The Farmers’ Union objects to the disorganisation which will be caused by the repeal of the Act which only came into operation on January 1st while the prospect of lower wages owing to the dropping of minimum pay which is now 46 to 50 shillings per week and also longer hours, is causing great concern amongst labourers. It is generally agreed that prewar employment conditions must not return. Nevertheless, the outlook in agriculture is far from bright and the present marked tendency to turn ploughland into grass complicates the position for labourers who already deemands. The suggestion which was made that the difficulties ahead could be tided over, if the workers were to agree to increased hours without extra pay, has been abandoned as impracticable as also the idea of applying Factory Union rates. The Press points out that the Cabinet in arriving at a decision had to consider the Dominion’s wheatlands and dairy farms and maintains that the whole edifice of the Empire stands upon food production and the consumption of Britain and that while British farm worker plays a very necessary part in the Empire’s responsibility, he is by no means a leading actor.
Cigarette units will come up in public sector if proposals recently cleared by the Industrial Development Ministry go through [New Delhi, June 13]. As many as five State industrial development corporations have been issued letters of intent to open cigarette factories and these are to be located in Tamil Nadu, Assam, Jammu and Kashmir, Kerala and Haryana. Besides these an application from Madhya Pradesh Industrial Development Corporation is under consideration. Barring Assam, the other States have proposed units with an annual production capacity of 4,500 million pieces each. Assam has proposed a unit with 3,000 million pieces capacity. Within a span of six months, letters of intent have been issued for eleven new units and for the expansion of one of the existing units of National Tobacco Company. Of the eleven new units, five are in the State sector and six in the private sector.