Shailesh Kumar, National Defence
New Delhi, 31 March 2018
Pakistan has been sharpening its axe of hybrid warfare and has been fighting India on all fronts. The threat spectrum is vast and extends from ‘keep the pot boiling in J&K to trigger demographic disturbances’. Whole of the Government approach and undermining Pak Army is the answer through sharper hybrid warfare.
Kautilya has a timeless thought to modulate our thinking wherein he states that ‘there can be four 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 Arthashastra ‘Apratyaksha Yudh’ – the indirect and invisible wars have been elucidated. No attack by the Mauryan state was launched without first destabilizing the balance of opposing power. Much to the distress of our wise ancestors, we Indians are now in the eye of the storm.
Bhutto’s pledge of a thousand years war with India and Gen. Zia’s strategy to bleed India through a thousand cuts have been a reality as these are at the core of Pakistani ideology. Bleeding India is a national obsession of Pakistan and raison d’être for its survival.
Pakistan’s cheap option of bleeding India has been creating an undue pressure on a growth-centric nation. Substantial financial outlays imposing costs to raise conventional forces has really not deterred Pakistan’s cheap option. The idea of virtual jihad has given Pakistan’s establishment enough cannon fodders to harvest. Behind the whole quagmire is Pakistan Army i.e. The Deep State. The involvement and the covert support of the Deep State to the non-state actors shall remain consistent and these cross-border terrorist strikes are not going to end anytime soon. India is not fighting an enemy but fighting an ideological obsession.
In recent times many terms for war and warfare are avidly seeking to embrace us and so is the term hybrid war which has been fighting for attention and fighting for a place in the security and military lexicon. We have a choice either to embrace or reject. Objectives of war have undergone fundamental change and it is no longer to capture territories, as it is counterproductive. Perhaps, it is for resources that are an essential part, but again, resources are available without going to wars. So it emerges that it is the domination of one idea, or state, one civilization over the other that motivate wars and conflicts.
Hybrid warfare construct, as emerging in Indian sub-continent, lies at the centre of irregular, conventional, terrorism and criminality. Hybrid construct indicates that these forms of warfare are interconnected, unpredictable, combined with traditional, mixed with irregular, applied simultaneously and adaptively in time and space.
Pakistan’s obsessive ideological warfare against India always had congenital connect to the idea of hybrid warfare. 1947-48 also known as the First Kashmir War, Pakistan targeted population, carried out subversion, sabotage and Pakistan did not declare war. In 1965 war, Pakistan sought to annex the State of J&K and executed Operation Gibraltar in September 1965. The environment was shaped over a period of time by targeting the population through specific actions to provoke parochial sentiments. In August 1965, Pakistan infiltrated about 30-40,000 irregulars known as the ‘Gibraltar Force’ that functioned under Pakistan Army. The occupation of heights around Kargil in 1999 by Pakistan-led forces led to confrontation with India. Regular troops of the Northern Light Infantry Regiment of the Pakistan Army masquerading as irregulars infiltrated and carried out occupation of the winter-vacated posts. The experience gained by Pakistan in equipping, training and providing leadership to the mujahedeen against the Soviets in Afghanistan was fully exploited in prosecuting hybrid warfare in J&K from the late 1980s. Pakistan has abetted hybrid warfare in terms of trained terrorists, training, equipment, leadership, finance and motivation. The battle is now in the ‘mind-space’ of the population with each side seeking to dominate the same.
A historical analysis of the major global conflicts and wars fought by India since Independence reveals a common thread – ‘hybrid war is being more and more practiced’. Pakistan has practiced hybrid war in virtually every war and conflict and continues to do so.
Pakistan is a nation at war and is aggressively denying peace to India. If we decompose the current space between peace and war, it just leaves the entire space of current conflict short on full-on war but outside of ‘normal state competition’ and that is where intent of Pakistani hybrid warfare lies. This state encompasses set of hostile actions whereby, instead of large-scale military invasion, an attacking power seeks to undermine its opponent through a variety of acts including subversion, intelligence operations, sabotage, hacking and the empowering of proxy insurgent groups. This may also include low-scale operations-what some call ‘poking and probing’. The landscape of hybrid war is immensely complex and more intense, characterized by higher degree of the term VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity). And VUCA does complicate defence strategy, planning, choices of response and idea of victory.
This kind of warfare does aim to cause more pain and embarrassment on the adversary and the same is also its antidote. And that is where India must strategise. Deep State will remain in driver’s seat in the foreseeable future and will tantalize their masses with utopian Bajwa doctrine and aim to mainstream their non-state actors into national politics. All these do not auger well for India’s national interest. Causing pain to Pakistan Army, bringing down credibility of corrupt Pakistan Army having huge corporate and illegitimate economic interests must be the core of such a strategy. Whole of government approach is the answer as the current space between peace and war with Pakistan is surely a war. However waged, a war is a war wherein there are no runners-up.
Shailesh Kumar is an independent journalist with over 17 years of experience in crime, political and defence reporting for leading media brands including Star News, India TV and NewsX. He is the founder editor of defence and security news portal, National Defence.