Hybrid warfare is an emergent domain in which irregular means of war fighting against the adversary state are used rather than a formal declaration of war. It has extended the battlefield to almost every segment of states and their societies as opposed to traditionally being restricted to be fought between the militaries. In South Asia, India’s active hybrid war has been intensified in recent years. This intensification, along with other Indian aspirations is also significant for India because, since the acquisition of nuclear weapons by Pakistan, the chances of an all-out war in South Asia have been eliminated. This seems to be one of the reasons behind a considerable increase in the hybrid and indirect threats from India. In recent years, India’s grave agenda to destabilize Pakistan has taken more momentum. In this regard, along with other components, India has been using information war as a major hybrid tool against Pakistan. This is further aimed at radicalizing the Pakistani society and ultimately achieving the goal of damaging Pakistan. This would likely serve as one of the major security challenges coming from India in the years to come.
To further intensify its Hybrid agenda against Pakistan, in 2014, the Doval Doctrine (Defense Offensive Doctrine) was formally introduced by India. This doctrine aims at destabilization and demoralization of Pakistan both internally and externally. In this regard, the arrest of an Indian spy Kalbushan Jhadav (a serving Indian Navy Officer) back in 2016 by Pakistan’s security forces is quite significant. His confession of involvement in terrorist and other sabotage activities in Karachi and Balochistan is also on record. Likewise, the recent attempt to attack the Pakistan Stock Exchange building in Karachi in June this year is also believed to be backed by India. Though the attempt was immediately neutralized by the Pakistani security forces, it reflects the rapid augmentation of the Indian hybrid war agenda to destabilize Pakistan. Moreover, India’s continuous lobbying in FATF to discredit Pakistan is also an example of its active hybrid campaign against Pakistan. However, the reality is the other way around, in fact, it is India that has been sponsoring terrorism in Pakistan and is involved in illicit activities. This is further evident from the recent record released by the US Department of Treasury’s FinCEN according to which, India has been involved in financial support to terrorism.
Due to the hyper and overflow of fabricated information, the nature of hybrid war has become more complex. Presently numerous events have taken place in Pakistan which include; propaganda against armed forces, sectarian conflicts, blasphemy cases, and bomb blasts for which India is believed to be at back. Moreover, the Social media forums are widely being used by India to propagate the anti-Pakistan narrative and radicalize the general masses in Pakistan. To further pursue its hybrid agenda against Pakistan, India has been actively involved in the development of fake websites and think-tanks pages (approximately network of 265 websites) which are aimed at lobbying against Pakistan’s interests in key European countries.
In recent years Pakistan has been cognizant and aware of the Indian hybrid threats aimed at damaging its national security. In this regard, quite recently, on 6th September 2020, Pakistan’s Chief of the Army Staff, General Qamar Javaid Bajwa while addressing a ceremony has stated that the enemy is active to defame and destabilize Pakistan. He has also opined that the people of Pakistan have to stand united against the hybrid war and must preserve the state interests. This statement reflects that Pakistan’s strategy to counter the threats of hybrid warfare lies with its people since India’s hybrid campaign has been revolving around targeting the general public. Furthermore, the government has already taken an initiative through the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to inform the public about fake news and defaming propaganda against Pakistan. To further deal with the covert Indian hybrid war agenda Pakistan needs to further boost up such initiatives.
Pakistan’s response to India’s propaganda after the Pulwama-Balakot crisis was quite appropriate if analyzed in the context of the Indian hybrid warfare against Pakistan. For instance, Pakistan has nullified India’s propaganda of targeting a terrorist camp in Balakot and killing more than 300 terrorists by visual images and satellite imagery. Likewise, it has further gained international recognition of the Kashmir issue as a human rights issue that needs the attention of the international community. These narratives have been a reflection of Pakistan’s efforts to propagate a real scenario of the situation contrary to the Indian hybrid and propaganda warfare.
Hence, Pakistan has been facing security challenges from both East and the West arising from the Indo-Afghan nexus. At the same time, it has been compelled to deal with the hybrid war that has been imposed by India. At the borders, it could be an easy task to defend because the targets are known. However, fighting a hybrid war is considered difficult due to the complex nature of techniques being employed. India has been employing hybrid warfare techniques against Pakistan for a long time, which in recent years has been intensified by sponsoring terrorist activities and media propaganda against Pakistan to destabilize it. However, Pakistan has successfully mitigated the Indian imposed hybrid war and propaganda. As hybrid warfare is more about narratives rather than the actual use of force, Pakistan needs to come up with more proactive strategies to counter the active hybrid war imposed by India.
*Basma Khalil, Research Affiliate, Strategic Vision Institute (SVI)