India’s Hybrid Warfare Against Pakistan: Challenges and Response

The term ‘hybrid warfare’ entered the strategic lexicon in the early 21st century despite having been practised in various forms for a long time. It is defined as a blend of both kinetic and non-kinetic options to offset conventional power dynamics.

Hybrid warfare includes extensive use of tools like spreading disinformation, propaganda, economic coercion, backing proxy militia and cyber-attacks to achieve strategic objectives. In modern times, owing to the exponentially high cost of men and material used in traditional warfare, not only the great powers but various middle powers engage in hybrid warfare in order to destabilize, demoralize and disintegrate their core adversaries.

Read more: EXPLAINER: What is hybrid warfare?

A new method to exert influence?

The advancement in technology over the 21st century encourages the blending of the different modes of warfare making hybrid warfare a practical option for meeting political objectives.

The aspects of ambiguity and deniability that accompany hybrid warfare, make it an attractive option for states to exercise subtle power – they do not have to fear attribution and retribution.

Hybrid warfare has become more popular because of the issue pertaining to major wars. The arrival of nuclear weapons in the 20th century even to India and Pakistan and the different major wars have made conventional warfare much riskier.

The consequences of the major wars have led to a transformation in how these wars are viewed. States that want to exert their influence have found other means to do so. There is an on-going debate in the UN about the serious consequences of the internet that can be constituted as acts of war. Its warfare without any direct violence.

Read more: Worldwide implications of Cyber-warfare?

India’s hybrid warfare against Pakistan

Pakistan’s arch-enemy, India, has constantly been waging hybrid warfare against Pakistan since partition but it has been recently expedited with increased funding, training of a separatist militia, through economic subversion by politicizing international bodies such as FATF and carrying out diplomatic sabotage in the form of disinformation campaigns disclosure by EU Disinfo Lab.

Though the decision was motivated by the political objective of placing Pakistan on the grey list, India’s hybrid warfare against Pakistan jeopardizes South Asia’s stability.

India’s main objective when it comes to hybrid warfare against Pakistan is to keep Pakistan politically and economically unstable. This helps achieve certain other goals like preventing the rise of Pakistan’s power in Kashmir and pressuring Pakistan to settle on India’s terms in issues like Siachen and Sir Creek. India has tried to employ numerous tools to wage this warfare against Pakistan at different levels.

Read more: Op-ed: India’s Political and Hybrid Warfare Against Pakistan

India is trying to build a narrative, especially among Indian Muslims and Kashmiris, that Pakistan is a failed or failing state and the partition of the Indian sub-continent was a huge mistake.

They are also generating the idea that the Indian Muslims are far superior to the Pakistanis and even the Bangladeshis. The hybrid warfare against Pakistan also has its internal dynamics, as it is very much part and parcel of India’s domestic politics, particularly around elections. Even the Hindutva intoxicated BJP came to power by employing this strategy.

Read more: How India uses hybrid warfare to destabilise Pakistan from within

Maligning the Pakistan Army

India has also given rise to the narrative that she always tried to build good relations but the Pakistani military does not let the relations normalize.

According to India, it is the Pakistan Army, which is not allowing a solution to the Kashmir dispute because when Pakistan and India were engaged in backchannel diplomacy to work out a solution on the basis of President Musharraf’s four-point formula, it was the Pakistan Army which conducted, supported and funded the Mumbai attack of 2008.

Thus, the Pakistan Army is portrayed as a major problem when it comes to Pakistan. It is also being projected that Pakistan’s defence expenditure is illogical as it needs to invest more in its development rather than the armed forces to defend itself against India.

India is also exploiting the fault lines of Pakistan – Balochistan and CPEC. Pakistan is also blamed for not allowing regional peace and integration. India links Pakistan to the Taliban at an international level. Certainly, India’s main aim is to weaken the social contract of Pakistan by creating restlessness, divisions and instability within the country.

Read more: Hybrid warfare: Strategic coercion against Pakistan – Ikram Sehgal

What does Pakistan need to do?

Pakistan needs a well-calibrated strategy in how to counter India’s move at every platform. Therefore, it is the need of the hour to understand the nature of hybrid warfare while concentrating on Pakistan’s social and political harmony. More importantly, we need to realize the potential of CPEC. There must be good governance based on deliverance to overcome the vulnerabilities.

There is no denying the fact that this is an era of multilateralism, but the multilateral approach works well when there are healthy bilateral relations. While it is good to host conferences and seminars, there is a need for more practical action.

We live in a world where information spreads quickly. Hence, we need a counternarrative to India’s narrative of ‘talks and terrorism cannot go side by side’ but unfortunately Pakistan always acts in an apologetic manner.

Read more: India’s hybrid warfare: Options for Pakistan

The media can potentially be the face of any state but in the case of Pakistan, the media does not care and there is no policy-based discussion between the media and the government.

Also, Pakistan does not have enough English news channels to portray the positive image of Pakistan. Furthermore, every part of Pakistani society including the media, civil society and academia should collectively respond to India’s hybrid warfare against Pakistan. For all of this to be successful, Pakistan’s immune system must be protected through socio-political harmony and improved governance.

Last but not the least, India may not be able to sustain its economic lure for long, therefore, India must stop this hybrid warfare against Pakistan, and resume diplomatic activities for stability and prosperity of the region.

The writer is a graduate in International Relations from National Defence University, Islamabad, and an Islamabad based Research Scholar. His Areas of interest is Foreign Policy of Major Powers and South Asia with a focus on Indo-Pak Relations. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the editorial policy of Global Village Space.