Pakistan’s Hybrid War
A peculiarly important news item that I came across while writing this column (January 10) is about the Manmohan Singh government’s decision to implement the visa-on-arrival facility at the Attari-Wagah check post to Pakistani nationals over 65 years of age from January 15. Under the liberalised visa regime, parts of which were operationalised during the visit of Pakistan interior minister Rehman Malik to New Delhi on December 14, senior citizens above 65 years can visit twice a year and can go to five places in the country.
Why I found this news peculiar was the timing of the decision. It came against the immediate backdrop of the barbaric raid of Pakistani soldiers across the Line of Control in the Poonch region of Jammu and Kashmir (January 8). They killed two Indian soldiers, severed one’s head and took that back into their territory as a ‘trophy’. In fact, they nearly beheaded the other Indian soldier but failed in taking the head as the Indian troops fired at them.
Predictably, the Pakistan government has denied the involvement of its soldiers in this savage act following the uproar in India. This heinous style of killing the “enemy” is nothing new for the Pakistani Army; they have done this before many a time. In fact, the Pakistani Army, along with its fellow travellers al-Qaida and the Taliban, has given some type of religious (Islamic) stamp to this style of barbaric execution.
One does not recall a single instance since the partition of the country in 1947 when Pakistan admitted of its involvement in any aggression against India in the beginning—whether it be the 1948 and 1965 wars, or the semi-war in Kargil in 1999, or the attacks by its state-sponsored terrorists on Indian Parliament in 2001 and city of Mumbai in 2008. Its brazen denial this time, too, is thus no different and should be dismissed contemptuously.
The bigger question is what should be India’s response to Pakistan’s “hybrid war” on India. As I have explained elsewhere, hybrid war, a term popularised by the American strategic analyst Frank Hoffman, means multiple types of warfare being used simultaneously by the adversary. Here, it will engage in irregular warfare, often taking the help of the non-state actors in its territory, apart from preparing for the conventional war to serve its ends. And when one talks of the irregular war, it involves terrorist mercenaries, deadly criminals, drug-traffickers and insurgents etc. in the enemy country.
The idea here is to unleash indiscriminate violence (often communal), coercion and criminal disorder. At the strategic levels, hybrid wars ensure that there is a clear linkage between the regular and irregular (the so-called non-state actors); in fact, in many a case the distinction between them gets blurred. They are operationally integrated and tactically fused. In fact, under hybrid war, the warfare becomes quite unrestricted. Multiple means—military but more non-military—are used against the enemy. Hacking into websites, targeting financial institutions, terrorism, using the media, and conducting urban warfare are among the methods championed. There are no rules or norms of war; in fact nothing is forbidden.
These elements of hybrid war perfectly match Pakistan’s policies towards India. No wonder why Malik, during his “flop visit” to India last month, did not find any role of Hafiz Saeed in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. He did not find anything wrong in Saeed’s relentless hate-speeches against India. He did not acknowledge the presence of Indian fugitives on Pakistani soil. He even went to the extent of ridiculing India’s complaint of ill-treatment of Indian prisoners of war in Pakistan, flouting the globally recognised norms. He brushed aside the agony of Captain Saurabh Kalia’s father who received his son’s body, mutilated and with all the organs cut after 20 days of the Kargil war. In fact, the beheading of Indian soldiers, a fortnight after his visit, is adding salt to India’s wound.
Pakistan continues to use terrorism as an instrument of state policy against India. And it seems that the UPA government is now reconciled to live with this factor. Systematically, the Manmohan Singh government has de-hyphenated terrorism from diplomacy with Pakistan. Born in what is today Pakistan, Manmohan Singh, like many influential Indians who have not forgotten their roots in Pakistan, romantacises that India shares its destiny with Pakistan and believes in the approach of peace at any cost with Pakistan. As a result, without Pakistan’s commitment to deny the anti-India forces from using its territory and resources, Indian officials and ministers have been meeting their Pakistani counterparts. Kashmir’s separatist leaders are being allowed to visit Pakistan and meet its officials freely, though no Indian authority is ever allowed to interact with people from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. India has now eased the travel norms of Pakistani people.
One could argue that subtle change in India’s approach under the UPA rule is also Warfare, “War amongst the People”. Advocated by one of Britain’s thinking soldiers, former chief of staff of the British Army Rupert Smith, this “is war amongst the people, where the strategic objective is to win the hearts and minds, and the battle is for the people’s will, rather than the destruction of an opponent’s forces”. Under the belief that today the use of force is less a direct means to an end and more of a catalyst and that conflicts are now just as much political as military, General Smith argues that force should be used, but only used when there is a clear understanding of the nature of the conflict and a well-conceived strategy for achieving a goal.
In his book, The Utility of Force, General Smith contends: “The nature of our operations today, and in the future, is fundamentally of a different nature to those of the past, for which our institutions have grown up and developed to conduct successfully. I call this new form, or model, of war amongst the people, in contrast to that past model. The essential difference is that military force is no longer used to decide the matter, but it is being used to create a condition in which the strategic result is achieved by other means, the strategic object being to alter the opponent’s intentions rather than to destroy him.”
Viewed thus, the Manmohan Singh government seems to be following General Smith’s model of war by trying to either capture the minds of the Pakistani people or to create those conditions through which its desired results in Pakistan might be found by other means. Unfortunately, however, this policy is not working. Despite all the concessions that it has got from India, Pakistan has not budged a single inch in its hostility against India. Its hybrid war on India continues unabated. In fact, there is every indication of it further intensifying, with the Americans planning to withdraw from Afghanistan, which Pakistan considers to be a territory providing it the strategic depth against India. In any case, one should not gloss over some of the newly-formulated Pakistani war-doctrines, including the one that talks of using tactical nuclear weapons against India. It is preparing hard for wars spread over a number of short episodes. The attack on January 8 should be viewed in this context.
What is therefore needed is a flexible approach towards Pakistan, preparing for the worst. While peace with Pakistan is desirable and worth pursuing, the country must deny the habitual and professional peaceniks (enriching themselves a lot in the process) the inversely disproportionate influence that they hold on the Manmohan Singh government. It is time for India to give back Pakistan in kind. Our “Special Forces” must be trained, modernised and given green signal to launch swift operations in Pakistani territory and return safely.
Many vested elements from the “Peace Industry” talk sheer nonsense when they say that any Indian retaliation in Pakistani territory will result in Pakistan launching a full-fledged nuclear war. Pakistanis attacked our Parliament and financial capital Mumbai. They have beheaded our soldiers. These have not resulted in full-scale wars. So, if Indian Special Forces give something back in kind, that will not necessarily lead to a full-scale war. If Indian peaceniks are not convinced of this, then there is something wrong with their power of reasoning.
In the worst case scenario, if Pakistan will launch a war, it is clear that Pakistan’s ruling establishment can never be free from the clutches of irrational elements. If Pakistan does not believe in India’s unity, integrity and stability, we must question India’s official position that “a stable, peaceful and prosperous Pakistan is in our interest”. My friend Brahma Chellany has a valid point when he argues that if the world has lived with the disintegration of the erstwhile Soviet Union, Yugoslavia and Sudan, heaven will not fall if Pakistan disintegrates for the second time after 1971(formation of Bangladesh).
By Prakash Nanda