Shailesh Kumar, National Defence
New Delhi, 14 August 2017
Independence Day Special “Hamein Chahiye Azadi… Afzal Ne Bola Azadi… Bandook Ke Dum Par Azadi”, like slogans in Kashmir; “Chor Di Kitabe, Baste Hang on Back, Ab Aa Gayee Teri Baari India Move Your Track”, rapper songs by like Raja Rapstar; “O Kudaya, lauta de Kashmir Dobara“, an Indian film song sung by a Pakistani girl at a function attended by the Prime Minister of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, going viral on YouTube looks just ordinary feats… characters look civilian, innocent, emotional; but all of them are warriors; waging a war- war against India. Surprised! No infiltration, No bullets fired, No bloodshed, still a potent fight against Indian Military, Indian State. You are just peeping into the Hybrid Warfare! On this Independence Day, every Indian must pledge to fight the hybrid war waged by the enemies of the State.
Today, wars no longer are fought in military domain alone. Year 2008 was the landmark when Pakistan strategically shifted its goal post to attain maximum military goals. Pakistan realized that Indian armed forces have tightened the noose along the border. Establishing an effective counter infiltration grid along (Line of Control) LoC fencing suddenly forced Pakistan to change its war game tactics.
November 2008/ Mumbai terror attack- mayhem in Mumbai resulted into a psychological war reaching the drawing room of every Indian household. It was the same year when Hurriyat allegedly started paying ISI money to Kashmiri youths to throw stone at forces. Stone pelting turned out to be a far potent weapon against Indian military and police. Indian state would often play at the hands of these stone pelters, who have become a uniting anti-national force to reckon with.
“Stone throwing started purely as a measure against Government establishment. Now you see from where it has gone to, to what level it has come. Today, stone throwing is taking place at funerals, as happened at the funeral of Umar Fayyaz. It’s happening at encounter sites. It is happening on military vehicles, so that the military is forced to respond in out of proportion (hinting at Major Leetul Gogoi jeep incident). So, it is a plan. It’s an overall strategy which is being used”, says Lt. Gen (R) Syed Ata Hasnain, Lt. Gen. Syed Ata Hasnain, Former GOC 15 and 21 Corps, Indian Army.
”It’s always some incident that triggers it. But those incidents are only triggers. There is something more underlying, something much more fundamental”, says S. Kalyanaraman, Research Fellow, IDSA.
Deception is the crux of what Pakistan is trying to do in Kashmir intensifying what Russia has done in Ukrain by first fomenting trouble in Ukraine; follow it up by sending in Special Forces troops in the guise of volunteer militiamen who took over key locations, declare independence through a popular uprising, move in regular troops while engaging in war rhetoric and then formally annex the area occupied. All this took place in the backdrop of an aggressive information campaign carried out in the cyber space as well as on international TV. Annexation of Crimea was carried out without even a formal declaration of war. Russia denied its involvement till the very end even in the face of mounting evidence.
“How did these new disruptions were utilized in the hybrid warfare is the term which Russian used when they did operation in Cremia. They call it co- linear war (non- linear). What is co-linear war? They work in the asymmetric domain and they also worked in the conventional domain. And they use both these to supplement and synergize the effect that you had on the people whom you had to address, which was basically the political masters in Ukraine and the developed world to get what they wanted to get”, explains Lt. Gen. Arun Kumar Sahni, Former Commander-in-Chief, Indian Army.
“In hybrid warfare, what is important is that you can deny. There is a factor of deniability; also there is a factor of ambiguity. That means you’re not very sure whether it was Pakistan army or they were private citizens that were raiding in J&K”, elaborates Maj Gen (R), RPS Bhadauria.
A very small nation or just a select band of people, just a few non-state actor can actually bring another state to its knees through hybrid warfare mixing and matching conventional domain with unconventional domain. Adopting hybrid means it prevents a nation from carrying out its normal tasks of meeting the aspirations of the people. Pakistan is a past master at hybrid warfare. This invariably happens when a nation is smaller and it’s got a larger adversary. In 1977, when General Zia-ul-Haq came to power, he realized it is not possible to fight India on the conventional battlefield; The only way to fight India and try and defeat it and bring it to its knees is to fight through what is called a thousand cut.
Lt. Gen (R) Syed Ata Hasnain bring to the fore the point, “Those thousand cuts are not necessarily military thousand cuts. Those thousands cuts are in different domains. General Zia was particularly very fortunate that he managed to get the ISI deeply involved in the operations in Afghanistan, that is where all the experience came from Afghanistan. And Pakistan’s intelligence agencies, Pakistan army, Pakistan’s Inter- Services Public Relations, the ISPR– all have been able to synchronize together; And bring heavy warfare to the fore. They are, I would say one of the, probably the highest achieving army or highest achieving security establishment in the world in the domain of Hybrid Warfare”.
“And Pakistan’s ISI can be stated as one of the best intelligence organizations we have in the world. I think, if you look at it in terms of both- in terms of effects as well as in terms of results, possibly ISI has achieved very high results in comparison to the best organization; and definitely all the Pakistan thrives on hybrid warfare”: Maj Gen (R) PK Chakravorty, Strategic Analyst.
Hybrid Warfare unlike conventional warfare does not operate under the ambit of operational cycles. Instead, it generally follows a four-stage process, gradually increasing in intensity and visibility- i) Political Subversion, ii) Proxy Sanctum, iii) Intervention, iv) Coercive Deterrence.
Political Subversion is to set the stage, generally covert and low intensity in nature. Local grievances are played up and orchestrated, low level violence is perpetrated forcing local Government to make mistakes. These errors are played up in the local and international media to further undermine credibility. Use of pellet guns, using a local resident as human shield as a fall out of stone pelting incidents in Kashmir is glaring example of political subversion.
Proxy Sanctum is alternate sanctuary. Pockets of influence created during subversion are consolidated using proxies like anti-social elements or through specially trained Special Forces personnel within the target area. The aim is to secure important locations like airports, radio and TV stations, Government buildings, etc. The intensity of conflict will generally depend on the reaction of the target state although the attacking state would like to keep it as low as possible while maintaining deniability. Incidents of infiltration and insertion of terrorists in Indian territory is another example of proxy sanctum.
Intervention is the stage where the attacker becomes more overtly involved in the conflict. In this stage, the troops of the attacking country will move into the target country and engage its forces in active combat. The kinetic means will be accompanied by non-kinetic means like cyber attacks, propaganda and the likes. The aim of this stage would be to take over as much territory, particularly the important cities, in order to claim legitimacy and set the scene for the next stage. Kargil war can signify this stage.
Coercive Deterrence is the stage where the attacker’s actions are overt and the intensity of violence is at its highest. During this stage,the affected nations would be in a state of war and there would be a possibility of big power intervention on behalf of the target country. In this phase, the attacker would like to present a state of ‘fait accompli’. While the attacker would indulge in sabre rattling, it would also call for a ceasefire and a negotiated settlement – thus, buying time to install a pliable regime. In certain cases, formal annexation of the area may also be declared, as happened in the case of Crimea.
It is not just Pakistan waging hybrid war against India. In Kashmir, there is collusive hybrid threat of both Pakistan and China; however with lower Chinese footprints. But, it is by and large Beijing mind behind the deceptive hybrid war waged against India by the Pakistan given the border dispute and strategic significance of Siachen to both China and Pakistan.
China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) built as part of China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) Project to connect Gwadar port in Baluchistan with Xinjiang province of China is a strategic project to facilitate Chinese entry into Indian Ocean in the garb of economic connectivity. The project runs through Gilgit- Baltistan, an area in Pakistan Occupied Indian Kashmir. Natives of Balochistan don’t want the project. There is uproar against the project in Gilgit Baltistan too. Strategic experts believe that Gwadar is a strategic hybrid asset and will become a Chinese PLA Navy base. That is the reason why China offering naval ships and submarines to Pakistan to be deployed at the base with creation of special marine units. Pakistanis themselves raised a force with 15,000 troops to protect CPEC. The ultimate aim of China is to gain territory without any direct military combat operation.
“I argue that CPEC will destabilize Pakistan because Pakistan will not be able to repay the loan. As per the Pakistanis themselves, they require to repay back 90 billion US dollars in the next 30 years; from where will Pakistan bring this money and if it can’t repay then what will they give to the party – Chinese? They will give the ownership of places like Gwadar or those special economic zones”, says Lt Gen PK Singh, Director, United Service Institution of India.
Lt. Gen (R) Syed Ata Hasnain throws more light, “2011 is the first time, I think, we heard reports of Chinese personnel in PoK and Gilgit Balistan; 11,000 of them working together on the Karakoram highway and the potential CPEC, which was coming up at that time. Yes when you invest 46 billion, now it has come to 50 billion almost in a project, you are going to try and keep it secure. China is attempting to do that. They are definitely sending in their engineers and others; but at the same time they’re sending in their soldiers to protect because you must remember that China has also got a problem back home in Xinjiang, where they ‘ve got a large Muslim population and that population isn’t too happy with what is happening inside Pakistan either”.
Kulbhushan Jadhav, the alleged RAW spy case is a glaring example of hybrid warfare. Pakistan has allegedly picked him up from Iran and shown to have arrested from Gwadar. A video of alleged confession was released followed by execution and subsequent legal case in ICJ.
Lt Gen PK Singh explains, “I think it’s a part of psychological warfare also. It is to tell the world that India is interfering in Balochistan. So they want a narrative for that and that is why they don’t want this man to come out openly. Otherwise, they should have said we will have a trial in International Tribunal to try him. Why not? Why don’t they give the consular access? Why don’t they say where did you get him from? So they’re trying to use this to say that India is meddling in the internal affairs to that extent that it fits into their, as I said what is hybrid warfare, all elements of national power. So they are trying to say this is our national power and we can squeeze the Indians somewhere”.
Even if India wins the case in ICJ, Pakistan will not execute the ICJ verdict forcing ICJ to report it to UN where China in collusion will veto against India. So, both Pakistan and China are fully prepared to wage Hybrid Warfare through media and legal front.
“So there are linkages, deep linkages by which the Chinese presence in Pakistan itself is very very vulnerable and.. China is… Pakistan itself reportedly has raised a light division worth of troops to actually protect the China Pakistan Economic Corridor. As you go along in the future you will find that the Balochistan is going to probably emerge as one of the very contentious areas. If we have got our things right, I think we should ensure that what is happening in Kashmir, if things continue to get raked up like this by Pakistan, we must ensure that we put the pressure back on Pakistan by doing the same what they’re doing here in Balochistan; and the potential is all there. So, I think this is the season of hybrid warfare. Hybrid warfare has to be fought with Hyrid Warfare. You can’t fight Hybrid while being Conventional”, remarks Lt. Gen (R) Syed Ata Hasnain.
China has added another dimension to Hybrid Warfare by giving birth to private army of retired PLA soldiers as it’s first company De Wei sets up operations in Sudan. The logic is the same. Overseas private contractors are convenient with no political liability and deniable. But they and the military are in reality two sides of the same coin. No one can deny in future the same would be extensively deployed in Balochistan and PoK.
Kalyanaraman, Research Fellow, IDSA says, “Chinese support for Pakistan is increasing; we see that. Earlier there has been only nuclear missiles only. Since 1980s, 90s, conventional weapons transfer have increased. Fifty per cent or more of China’s exports- arms exports, conventional arms exports go to Pakistan. So, if there would be a change in Chinese position, diplomatic position on Kashmir, then that’s something to be taken care of. We need to take note of it and prepare ourselves. So it doesn’t make sense to deal with two adversaries at the same time. You need to separate the two at least minimize the amount quantum of support that China would give to Pakistan”.
At the one hand China is using Pakistan as an instrument of asymmetric war against India. On the other hand, China is silently invading Pakistan culturally. The aim is to gain indicrect control of Pakistan by turning it into it’s colony. China calls Hybrid Warfare as Unrestricted Warfare. Two senior colonel of People’s Liberation Army, Liang Qiao and Wang Xiangsui, advocated attack on US Twin Tower at least two and half year before the actual attack. They even talked about using Osama bin Laden to perpetrate the attack on US soil in their book Unrestricted Warfare published by PLA Literature &Arts Publishing House. They talked about using asymmetric means to take on the bigger enemy operating a substantially large military. For its rise, China devised Science of War strategy to use asymmetric means instead of directly involving itself in any spat with its adversaries. China’s hybrid domains include media, legal and cyber space. China aims to dominate the world through use of electronics. To achieve this, in December 2015, China announced creation of PLA Strategic Support Force, which will focus on space and cyber domains. This is clear indication that strategic priorities of the PLA have shifted to information-based joint warfare with emphasis on technology while being able to fight the full spectrum of conflicts from irregular to strategic warfare.
Lt. Gen. Arun Kumar Sahni: “So you have information warfare, which is technical and you have information warfare, which is psychological. So when you look at these two aspects, you are utilizing the asymmetric or disruptive mediums to achieve what you have to and that is to set the pace and attack the mind of the commander that is what the whole story of psychological warfare is. So today if you see the changes that will happen whether you look at Taiwan, you look at China, you look at Soviet Union and similarly in the US, you already started raising Special Forces and special commands, which are addressing the issues of this asymmetric domain of that cyber is a very key component”.
In 2015, India faced 36 major critical cyber attacks meaning every 15 days there were some aspects which were impacted either in banking system, air traffic system, rail reservation system or hacking into critical component of civil offices. This year in May, India becomes world’s 3rdworst hit country affected by the wanna cryransomware attack. The latest ransomware targets computers running the Microsoft Windows operating system by encrypting data and demanding ransom payments in the Bitcoin crypto-currency.
Lt Gen PK Singh gives historical perspective, “Today we are talking of cyber. But, in the second World War, we were looking at radio communicatio; we were intercepting that; we were breaking codes- Morse codes. Today you’re breaking cyber codes, the medium has changed but to say that it was not there earlier we are doing it now, the medium is changed, the space has changed and more importantly today the number of people who can do this is much more. Anybody can hack, you and I can hack, the state can hack and the deniability is there”.
Lt. Gen. Arun Kumar Sahni emphasizes the need of tackling cyber threats, “Make in India components with Prime Minister saying is extremely important in the area of your cyber security. Today, you need to have capacities in an area where you are communicating across sectors, sub sectors, seamless integration, you are talking about Artificial Intelligence; you need to have the capacity to be able to manufacture it yourself. When you manufacture it then you control the process of embedded hardware and software that are there. I think this is an area of extreme concern”.
Drugs, Criminal Networks and Insurgency are other constituents of hybrid warfare. According to sources, there is a connection between Pakistan and Punjab’s Drug problem.
Not only drugs but crime and insurgency are hybrid threats in Punjab. Every year, Rupees 6,500 crore worth of heroin is smuggled into Punjab. According to a research a total of 1.2 crore people suffer from Pakistan’s silent killer drugs. In 1993 serial bomb blasts in Mumbai, Dawood’s D company drug network was used by Pak’s ISI soon after the Babri mosque demolition.
Maj Gen (R), RPS Bhadauria highlights, “So, the ISI contacted them. This network was used to plant bombs at seven – eight places and almost 250 people died, 700 injured. So Pakistan could attain the kind of results that they wanted by using the criminals. This is not the only example. Another example is in 2004, in Spain, what we call as Madrid train blast, there also these drug smugglers were used. That network was used by al- Qaeda to carry out the bombings of the train”.
There is another strong connect between what is happening at LoC and Arunachal Pradesh. In 2016, when temperature on LOC was very high, there were three blasts in Arunachal Pradesh. This was a Chinese message to cool down temperature on LOC. Similarly during Dalai Lama’s Arunachal visit, China raised huge protest and threatened India. And within a few days of visit there were naxal attacks on CRPF in Chhatisgarh and China renamed six places in Arunachal Pradesh. There are strong evidences that China is involved in insurgency in India’s North East. Not only this, China exploits the local sentiments using the stark contrast in development between Indian side and Chinese side of LAC. At these places, the adversary may not go for outright annexation but may try to create instability. The Pan Naga Movement in the border areas of Nagaland and Manipur can be leveraged by the adversary to create instability. With ever rising stakes in the Indian Ocean Region, our island territories can be prone to such attacks and this should be factored into our security calculus.
Maj Gen (R), RPS Bhadauria: “Together in terms of Hybrid warfare, we will find there is a nice connect between what is happening in J&K, what is happening in North East and in Maoist affected area”.
What should be India’s response against Pakistan and China’s hybrid wars. India has to fight Hybrid War with Hybrid Warfare only. There is no other way out. For concerted efforts, India needs a comprehensive and consolidated ‘National Military Strategy’ to meet multi- front challenges.
Hybrid warfare has no front and is a combination of all elements of national power. India is still evolving its National Military Strategy. No doubt, India’s upcoming National Military Strategy is to be influenced by Kautilya’s Arthashastra.
General Bipin Rawat, Chief of Army Staff, Indian Army sometime back at a book release function at USI said, “While we do not have ‘National Military Strategy’ (NMS) as of now, but the Directorate General of Perspective Planning (DGPP) has been tasked to come out with one. We are also coming out with the National Security Strategy (NSS), which will be given to the Government; And based on that we will be evolving our National Military Strategy. Both these drafts documents are ready and hopefully, we will be releasing them very soon”.
Kautilya/ Chankya in Arthshastra mentioned of four types of dangers to a state: That which is of external origin and of external abetment; that which is of internal origin and of internal abetment; that which is of internal origin and of external abetment; and that which is of external origin and of internal abetment. In the Arthashashtra, Apratyaksha Yudh- the indirect or invisible wars have been elaborated. In fact, no attack by the Mauryan state was launched without first destabilizing the balance of opposing power.
Lt Gen PK Singh explains further, “the use of force is the last. He says that the King must solve all his problems, if nothing else works then use his powers. Similarly when he says Sam, dand, bhed; dand is the last part. So he is trying to say, solve the problems, but all of these… the nation must be able to use its power combined. Did he not talk about what you would call spying, getting intelligence that has been done by all. You could not fight a war without knowing what your adversary is planning to the best of your ability. So you send out people to gather that intelligence”.
Hybrid war can’t be fought in military domain alone but all the departments of government must have a full understanding of what is Hybrid Warfare and be prepared to fight it through every single domain available. The very same way ISI has fought India physically through the sponsorship of terrorists, infiltration along with finances through hawala, they are also using social media to bring psychological warfare against Indian population particularly against the Kashmiri population. India has been countering it in the military domain by killing terrorists. In the valley, there may not be more than 250 to 300 terrorists. India need to ensure that the governance continues, the finance network of terrorists devastated; social media networks impinging on the minds of the Kashmiri population are neutralized. At the same time India should have sufficient amount of material and text to be able to take the battle of the social media to the other side to influence the Pakistani population or to influence the population in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK).
Kalyanaraman says, “ensure that the idea of Kashmiri Nationalism comes closer to the idea of Indian Nationalism. Now we need to do things to keep us together; it cannot be done only by force. It has to be done by the Power of Attraction, Soft Power”
“You have an organization called the ‘Unified Command’ in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). I think it’s a tailor-made organization to counter Hybrid Warfare. Because it’s an organization in which all the organs of the state, all the domains meet together. That’s the place where they can understand, probably create more doctrines, more guidelines, rules of engagement, and sensitize everyone on what exactly are the intentions of Pakistan and what it is attempting to do”.
“For example, the subversion going on in south Kashmir at the moment, right, the subversion against the government servants which is going on at the moment, they need to be protected. We need to protect our people who are going on leave; we need to protect our Jammu and Kashmir police in a very-very big way because the whole attempt of Pakistan at the moment is to subvert the Jammu and Kashmir Police, which is found to be one of the very important elements in this entire game in which the joint-ness of the Jammu and Kashmir Police along with the Indian Army is actually a game changer in the entire thing”.
So, I think, as I said before, it is education, awareness, knowledge and training these are the very- very essential things before we take on anything else in terms of Hybrid Warfare”, elaborates Lt. Gen (R) Syed Ata Hasnain.
The psychological impact, Prime Minister Modi’s 2 minutes speech on Balochistan from rampart of red fort in August 2016 created on Pakistan shows that India can also leverage the faultlines of Pakistan, if Pakistan continues to meddle in Kashmir.
“If we are ultimately serious about it, I can assure you that the Indian brain can be very- very wily. It can be as notorious as any other brain in the world; and I think sometimes it is important to send home that message to your adversaries that do not consider us to be a benign power, which only believes in the use of soft power. The messaging must be very clear. This is a part of Hybrid Warfare where the messaging content has to be clear to tell your adversity that up to this point that we can take it; This is the threshold, beyond this, we will respond and we will respond very strongly”, Lt. Gen (R) Syed Ata Hasnain explains further.
Training of terrorists in terror camps in Pakistan occupied Kashmir and terrorists’ insertion through launch pads on the line of control requires hybrid military response. Experts believe that weapons like Brahmos Cruise Missiles should be used to tackle this hybrid threat.
Maj Gen (R) PK Chakravorty explains “They have proved their worth on 3rd May beautifully. On 3rd May, they hit a target at 270 kilometers in Andamans. So, what is the problem. We can take on all the launch pads. There is no problem at all. And Pakistan wishes to retaliate so be it. We have no launch pads on our sides. I certainly feel this is a very strong response. This could be a true surgical strike”.
Hybrid war is not against the military alone, it is not directed against the Government too; in reality it is the people who are subjected to Hybrid Warfare. If you are reading this, then as a citizen state you must be prepared to respond to Hybrid Wars wage by the enemies of the nation, irrespective of who you are, what you do.
(Special thanks to Lt. Col Samir Srivastava (replicated some incidents in this article from his original input), CLAWS and (not to name) a serving Brigadier of Indian Army).
(The original input for this article and soundbites were collected sometime back)