Indian hybrid warfare: The threat is real

The false allegations that Pakistan is a terrorist sponsor state has been one of the longstanding notions developed by India and transmitted via targeted misinformation

Hybrid warfare in conflict studies is a developing but undefined concept, which utilizes unconventional approaches as part of multi-sphere warfighting tactics. These approaches are designed to destabilize and disable the activities of an adversary without kinetic means. Hybrid warfare menuevers through social or psycological components which could be employed under conventional warfare, irregular warfare and cyber warfare with other operating approaches such as fake news, diplomacy, and electoral interference.

The term “political warfare” is also commonly referred to hybrid warfare as the power used to attain national objectives in the absence of armed conflict. Political warfare is also the engagement of all the means at a nation’s command, short of war, to achieve its national objectives. As per existing literature, hybrid warfare can be elaborated as an amalgamation of traditional military approach, unconventional means, economic exploitation and information war. The most prominent hybrid war was waged by the United States against Russia and China by adopting strategies i.e. “containment” or “constructive engagement.” The contemporary approach of Russia towards Ukraine is also an illustration of this form of warfare.

In hybrid warfare, the target state's media is often used as the most effective method to cause desperation, confusion and resentment among the general public. The aggressor can manipulate existing internal fault lines such as ethnic/religious extremism, crumbling economy and insurgencies. The perpetrator could fuel political turmoil to avoid national policies being formulated and implemented by the target state. To isolate the rival state globally, robust diplomatic lobbying can be employed to produce desirable results and the belligerent can exploit weak diplomatic channels of target state to damage/deprecate its positive initiatives/efforts. Subversive actions can also be utilized through proxy forces and non-state entities inside the target state to politically undermine law and order while turning the target into an unstable society. Belligerent could exploit its leverage on foreign financial institutions to establish circumstances that further economically degrade the rival by paving the way for such financial institutions to seize over the target state's national assets.

In the context of South Asian regional stability, the current security situation indicates the use of hybrid warfare against Pakistan. Throughout the last two decades, especially since it became a nuclear power, Pakistan is in the midst of hybrid warfare. When Pakistan demonstrated its nuclear capability in 1998, along with powerful conventional military preparedness, New Delhi found it difficult to coerce Islamabad through direct conflict. So India shifted its policy towards hybrid tactics against Pakistan. India is exploiting socio-ethnic and religious fault lines in Pakistan while propagating against every effort leading towards national cohesion. In this regards, the doctrine of Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Doval reflects the hybrid warfare ambitions of India against Pakistan. India has a history of instigating proxies against Pakistan, but the indirect vilest approach was adopted by Ajit Doval in the public domain when he was nominated as National Security Advisor.

A prominent YouTube video of Mr. Ajit is a perfect manifestation of India’s intentions to wage hybrid war against Pakistan. He elaborated his doctrine as an engagement with the enemy at three levels, defensive, defensive-offensive and offensive. While classifying Pakistan as an Indian enemy, Mr. Ajit advocated an extensive range of clandestine actions against Pakistan i.e. isolating Pakistan internationally OR aiding Tehreek Taliban Pakistan (TTP) to create internal security of Pakistan chaotic. He is of the view that India should use the Taliban as a prevalent vulnerability against Pakistan. The latest exposure of the spy network following the arrest of RAW agent Kulbhushan Yadav by Pakistani security agencies reveals that rules of engagement have been changed. Whereas, the primary purpose of Pakistan-specific land warfare doctrine – declassified by the Indian Army in 2018 – was to initiate the hybrid nature of wars through modernization and integration of the armed forces. The persistence of the terrorist attacks in Balochistan as well as the emerging military strategies of India are proofs that Doval doctrine is functioning at full throttle.

The mainstream media has less often publicized that India is persistently involved in a proxy war against Pakistan, which is an efficient tactic of indirect engagement. New Delhi has been wagging a proxy war against Islamabad through Kabul especially at a time when NATO forces are almost ready to depart. Pakistan on many occasions has provided sufficient evidence to Indian authorities, about Indian covert support in several terrorist acts. Former United States Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, has also indicated that India is using Afghan soil to finance the problems for Pakistan. These Indian infiltrations in Pakistan are a prominent feature of hybrid warfare as Webster G. Tarpley, a prominent US based analyst revealed that “the chosen strategy is to massively export the Afghan civil war into Pakistan and beyond, fracturing Pakistan along ethnic lines.”

The false allegations that Pakistan is a terrorist sponsor state has been one of the longstanding notions developed by India and transmitted via targeted misinformation. India is persistently creating opportunities for false flag operations such as the Indian parliament bombing, Mumbai crisis of 2008, Pathankot attack in 2016 and Pulwama incident of 2019. As a result of India's falsified propaganda campaigns, misinformation and diplomatic efforts, Pakistan was placed on the FATF grey list. Recently, India has circulated another fake news about the terrorist attack in Sri Lanka, alleging that Pakistani-based terrorists had carried it out. This claim was subsequently refused by global terror expert of Sri Lankan origin and confirmed that terrorists had infiltrated and coordinated through Indian soil.

While the government of Pakistan is well aware of the threat of Indian Hybrid warfare and taking appropriate safeguard, it is the right time for Pakistan’s policymakers to adopt a more practical and proactive approach for the formulation of a cohesive strategy to counter Indian hybrid tactics. The government of Pakistan should conduct a self-evaluation of critical functions and weaknesses across all segments, especially related to international narrative building, and maintain it regularly. There is a need to institute and entrench a procedure to lead and coordinate a national approach of self-assessment and threat analysis. Military leadership has already acknowledged that Pakistan confronts a hybrid war as the adversary tries to manipulate many of its financial, economic and political fault lines. In the changing pattern of Hybrid warfare, Pakistan must prepare itself at all levels of policy, doctrine, strategy and operations.

The writer is a student of current affairs and political science with Masters degree from NUST, Islamabad.

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