By Dr Subhash Kapila
Pakistan and China in continuation of their relentless adversarial and conflictual military postures against India for decades now appear to have switched over in years preceding 2020 to strategies of hybrid warfare against India having failed to arrest India’s noticeable geopolitical and military rise with the advent of Indian PM Narendra Modi in 2014.
“Hybrid Warfare is defined as a military strategy which employs political warfare and blends conventional warfare, irregular warfare and cyberwarfare with other influencing methods such as fake news, diplomacy warfare and foreign electoral intervention”.
The global geopolitical environment in favour of India prompts Pakistan and China to hesitate in any conflict-escalation with possibilities of serious armed conflict and Hybrid Warfare offers an appropriate strategy of keeping India militarily occupied and besieging India from within and weakening it.
Geopolitically, Pakistan and China have convergent strategic aims to see the end of PM Modi’s BJP Government as under PM Modi’s robust leadership India’s global recognition of India as an Emerged Power with all the attendant advantages has flowed in. Globally, India is perceived as an existential counterweight against China with consequent policy implications for Pakistan in strategic alliance with China.
India under PM Modi has dispensed with the Pakistan and China appeasement timid foreign policies followed by Congress Government from 2004-14.. Pakistan stands ignored and side-lined by the Modi Governent and India has stoutly faced and stared down Chinese military stand-offs like that of Dokalam Standoff of 2018. India under PM Modi’s surgical land and air strikes against targets across the LOC in Kashmir and at Balakot deep in Pakistani territory as retaliation against Pakistani terrorist suicide bombings indicated that India would no longer suffer timidly under such enemy provocations.
Addressing the last component first of diplomacy warfare and foreign electoral intervention , does one need to highlight the insidious and pro-active role diplomacy warfare role China has played in South Asia and at global forums like the United Nations. This has extended from China overplaying its hand on Kashmir issue in United Nations and shielding Pakistan Terrorists Chiefs from being designated as ‘Global Terrorists. China has recently been shielding Pakistan from being blacklisted on terrorism by FATF, much against Major Powers’ intentions to do so.
China has consistently opposed India’s diplomatic rise by stoutly opposing India’s claims of being included as a Permanent Member of the UN Security Council. China has similarly opposed India’s memberships of the Nuclear Suppliers Group and other similar global organisations.
In South Asia, China has always tried to side-line India and to further Pakistan’s cause with South Asian nations and whose major fall-out has been India rendering the regional organisation SAARC as redundant when Pakistan sought to bring in China also as member of SAARC. The list is endless and well publicised by strategic community.
In term of foreign electoral intervention in India’s General Elections and States Assembly elections there has been a history earlier of then USSR reportedly assisting Congress PM Indira Gandhi’s election victories. But in 2020, dangers exist more considerably of China interfering electorally in subtle strategies to sway Indian minority electorates along with Pakistan away from PM Modi’s recent successes in moving sections of Indian Muslims votes away from the Congress.
Pakistan and China’s influencing strategies are attendant in run-ups to India’s General Elections more noticeably in 2019 when PM Modi ran for his second term as Prime Minister. Influencing operations included political reachout by Pakistan and China to India’s Opposition Parties leaders both by their Ambassadors in India and invitations to leaders of such parties to Lahore and Lhasa on the pretext of seminars or visits to Mansarovar. Media celebrities especially those reputed to be not friendly disposed towards the ruling party have also been targets of such influencing operations.
Analytically in 2020, it becomes apparent by joining the dots of unwarranted violent agitations in the wake of Indian Parliament passing the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in predominant Indian Muslim areas of Delhi, Meerut, Aligarh and Lucknow and the preceding overly violent students agitations in the Leftists-dominated Universities of Jawaharlal Nehru University Delhi, Jamia Millia University Delhi and Jadavpur University in West Bengal, that both Pakistan and China’s hands are at play in their Hybrid Warfare Strategy against India.
Despite temporary drop in economic growth India under PM Modi has considerably narrowed the military differentials in comparative military power with China and can be stated to have regional predominance over Pakistan with its ‘Nuclear Triad notwithstanding Pakistan’s increasing nuclear weapons arsenal. India’s war preparedness has notched many places up in terms of its war-wastage reserves.
Curiously and regrettably, Pakistan and China’s convergent aims of seeking regime change of PM Modi in Delhi gets echoed in India’s political Opposition parties like the Congress Party and the Communist Party-M. Similarly seeking to displace the Modi Government as back-to back BJP wins in 2014 and 2019 General Elections threaten the political relevance of the Congress-Communists Combine as I would like to put it. Significantly, both Congress and CPI-M leaders instead of advocating restraint on the JNU and Jamia Millia Universities violence and the arson resorted to by Indian Muslim groups in Shaheen Bagh Area and in Meerut and Lucknow noticeably seemed to instigate by inflammatory speeches at Shaheen Bagh.
The above congruence of interests of Pakistan and China synchronising with India’s political Opposition Parties provides an attractive field for exploitation by Pakistan and China in unleashing their Hybrid Warfare strategies against India specifically aimed at displacing PM Modi. Unmistakeably, the ire of India’s political Opposition is targeted against the persona of PM Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah as evident from instigated assertions by Indian Muslim community (?) leaders and Leftists students’ union leaders of Universities stated above.
In terms of political warfare by Pakistan and China against India in play currently as part of their Hybrid Warfare strategies notice must be taken of the strident and defiant positions adopted by what is now being termed as the Shaheen Bagh Blockade by Indian Muslim women predominantly as cover creating an explosive law and order situation. It is also evident from the venomous anti-Indian rhetoric indulged daily on English TV Channels by questionable Indian Muslim panellists and Leftists professors from the Universities more strident against the ruling party.
They stand encouraged by Congress Party and Leftists leaders making a beeline to Shaheen Bagh in what can be construed as political instigation under fig-leaf that Constitution is in danger but is actually impelled by Congress-Leftists desperate urge to hold on to their traditional captive vote banks of the Indian Muslim minority.
It is a sad commentary on Indian politics that as part of negative strategies parties like the Congress ad CPI-M have not hesitated in politicising India’s national security challenges like the surgical strikes that were launched against Pakistani terrorist provocations. Such political trends offer a ripe field for Pakistan and China to further their Hybrid Warfare strategies against India in multiple manifestations.
China’s hand cannot be ruled out though very subtly played in the Universities of JNU, Delhi University and Jadavpur University which abound with Professors ideologically passionate about Communists ideology and who equally spew venom not only against PM Modi but also the RSS and generally against Hindu ideology on TV channels every night. The demonization of PM Modi resorted to by such academics and extending to Hindu organisation like the RSS indicates that Pakistan and China have greatly misperceived fears of rise of what they state as Hindu nationalism with its connotation of a strong united India.
Pakistan and China for decades have blended their conventional adversarial postures against India with irregular warfare extending from state-sponsored terrorism by Pakistan and suicide bombings extending from Kashmir to Kanyakumari and Mumbai to Assam. China cannot deny its role in fomenting insurgencies in India’s sensitive North East Regions and the Maoists insurgencies in India’s so-called ‘Red Corridor’.
China’s cyber warfare capabilities are in play with hacking of websites of sensitive Indian installations however much denied. China’s cyber warfare threat is serious enough to impel the Indian Government to set up dedicated organisations to counter it. If China could assist Pakistan with nuclear weapons and long range missiles development against India would it be far-fetched to assert that China would be assisting Pakistan to develop cyber warfare capabilities against India to supplement China’s strategies in this direction.
India in recent times especially in the run-up to General Elections 2019 and State Assembly Elections stands plagued by an overflow of ‘Fake News’ doing the rounds both on social media and also in many media outlets. The latter would not be possible but for sections of the Indian media becoming handmaidens of those inimically opposed to India. Here again the Fake News outpourings focus on demonization of PM Modi with wild charges of Saffron Terror authored by senior Congress leaders including the scion of the Congress Dynasty—Rahul Gandhi.
Fake News were more markedly employed by Pakistan in the Kashmir Valley by demonising the Indian Army effective counter-terrorism operations against Pakistani proxies and their sympathisers. False stories of rape and Human Rights were raised to discredit the Indian Army and these were lapped up by some sections of the Indian media.
The point that finally needs to be understood by the average Indian is that in 21st Century outright war against India by Pakistan and China is an avoidable option in view of international repercussions and therefore Hybrid War with its more subtle and creep strategies accompanying with border skirmishes, proxy terrorism and military standoffs serve the same strategic ends.
Concluding, it needs to be emphasised that Hybrid Warfare offers an attractive option to countries like Pakistan and China to further their strategic ends which currently stand focussed on a regime change in India. The task of these adversarial nations with history of conflict with India becomes that much earlier when they can strike synchronous convergences within India of people and organisations that would like to see the back of PM Narendra Modi. Influencing operations in India by creating political distrust against a robust Indian Government becomes an attractive strategy for adversarial nations of India like Pakistan and China.