By Brig Anil Gupta (Retd)*
Samba, Gurdaspur, Pathankot, Pampore, Uri, Macchail, about 200 ceasefire violations targeting civilians and now Nagrota — the list is endless and increasing. After every incident, strong statements are made, Pakistan is blamed, provocative debates are held on TV channels, an inquiry is ordered — gradually it fades away from the nation’s memory and things return to square one till we are awakened by another rude shock.
Pakistan remains in the denial mode as usual and indulges in mutual blame game till conclusive evidence is produced of its involvement and even then it has the audacity to continue to harp about home-grown militancy.
In fact, ever since 1947, Pakistan has never ever admitted initially to its involvement in tribal raids in J&K, 1965, 1971, Khalistan movement, Kashmir, Kandhar, Parliament attack, Kargil, and the current unrest in Kashmir. It is part of its strategy.
There is no denying the fact that Pakistan has been using hybrid threats against India since Independence. With the emergence of technology, the threats have become more deadly and potent and have been given a new name of “Hybrid War”.
Hybrid War can best be described as a combination of conventional and sub-conventional threats and can be unleashed both by the state and non-state actors.
China, another adversary of India’s, is also a big proponent of this type of warfare in the 21st century and terms it as “Unrestricted Warfare.”
This type of warfare is characterised by undefined battle space and extends to the flanks and rear as well. In other words, there is no front or rear in the hybrid warfare battlefield and it can manifest anywhere on the borders or deep inside the hinterland.
The tools of hybrid war, or the hybrid threats, include conventional warfare, irregular warfare, economic warfare, cyber warfare, subversion, criminal acts, Special Ops, information warfare or propaganda and violence. In hybrid war, conflicts are as much political as military.
Pakistan continues to use terrorism as an instrument of state policy. A section of Indian elite is also a tool of Pakistan’s hybrid warfare against India. Through its intelligence agencies and Track 2 diplomacy, Pakistan has successfully cultivated a section among India’s political and social elite that is not only pro-Pakistan but also questions the Indian Parliamentary resolution of 1994 claiming the entire state of J&K as an integral part of India.
The Nagrota attack bears the trade mark signature of General Raheel Sharif who was relinquishing office that day. During his tenure as Chief of the Pakistan Army, he ensured that any possible attempt at holding talks with India were nipped in the bud through sensational terror acts using the apparatus of the Deep State.
In the instant case, Raheel Sharif killed two birds with one stone. He not only negated the offer of talks during the proposed visit of Foreign Affairs Advisor Sartaj Aziz for the Heart of Asia Conference at Amritsar but also somewhat restored his military reputation that had been dented badly after the Indian surgical strikes in September.
In fact, the expected response from Pakistan after the surgical strikes was increase in terror activities. We should have been prepared to meet this threat from our adversary.
The stark reality is that we, as a nation, are not prepared to meet the challenges posed by the hybrid threats from our adversaries. Fidayeen attacks and mass casualty terror acts like in Mumbai in 1993, 2006 and 2008 are the manifestations of hybrid war unleashed by Pakistan.
We should have woken up in 1993 and minimised, if not totally eliminated, such threats in our heartland. Alas, we didn’t and had to suffer the ignominy of 10 more such attacks in different parts of the country till we were shocked by the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai in 2008.
Sadly, we are a nation of rhetoric. Lot of noises were made after 26/11 but even today, after 8 years have elapsed, can we put our hands on our chest and say that we are fully prepared to meet such threats. If we were, incidents like Gurdaspur, Samba, Pathankot, Pampore and Nagrota would not have happened.
After the 9/11 attack, the US revamped its entire security and intelligence apparatus to ensure the safety of its citizens and went whole hog to eliminate the terror threat from its soil. It raised the Department of Homeland Security with complete mandate and wherewithal to ensure that such threat could not manifest in future and Americans could live peacefully.
The result is there for all to see. Despite several attempts, the terrorists have found it virtually impossible to penetrate the American homeland security system.
This is how strong nations respond to the challenges of hybrid threats which manifest in the worst form of terrorism.
Regrettably, India has barely addressed the problem post-26/11 and not taken much action to ensure the safety of her citizens from these threats.
Since hybrid threats can manifest anywhere and everywhere, security becomes the responsibility of the entire society and not only that of the security forces or the government.
Security is not merely a thought process but a concept and a lifestyle which has to be understood and implemented by all citizens to make our nation secure. It can no more be treated as a routine activity.
We need to develop a ‘security culture’. Every citizen needs to imbibe security protocol. We have to get used to discomforts and inconveniences that may be caused due to implementation of security procedures.
Even those serving in various security agencies, including police, need to understand its importance and not treat it as a mere job to earn a livelihood.
A cursory look at the security personnel deployed at crowded places like bus stands, railway stations, malls, market places, religious shrines and so on will certainly raise a question in your mind if they are properly equipped, trained, geared and motivated to handle any kind of terror threat? The answer is obvious.
That is why terrorists move freely on our highways and travel distances to strike at will wherever they choose to. If that was not so, how did the terrorists reach Nagrota — it is neither located on the Line of Control nor close to the International Border.
We have a plethora of agencies but they lack coordination and cooperation. Turf wars are more important to us than national security and the lives of our citizens.
To counter the challenges of hybrid threats, we need a national response. First and foremost, without wasting any more time, we need a dedicated ministry to look after our internal security. The present MHA is too big and unwieldy to address the issue and don the desired role.
We need to invest heavily in our intelligence and surveillance capabilities. They are nowhere near the optimum level. Coordination and cooperation among the plethora of agencies should form the mandate of the proposed dedicated ministry.
We also need to invest heavily in state police capability-building. From a “Danda Force”, they need to be upgraded to a force capable of acting as a first line of defence against internal threats.
Our airports, coastal areas and highways need to be made impregnable. We also need to change the habit of working in watertight compartments. A greater amount of interaction and consultation between various organs of the state responsible for national security is required. Fortunately, we are no more saddled with highly risk-averse political leadership.
Our information warfare and counter propaganda capabilities need a quantum leap so that they can penetrate deep into Pakistan to exploit the obvious fault lines in that country. At a time when we are moving rapidly towards e-governance, digital world and cashless economy, our cyber warfare capabilities need a thorough re-look and enhancement.
Last, but not the least, we should be militarily prepared for punitive and pre-emptive operations against the terrorists and their sponsors and such operations should form part of our doctrine to combat Hybrid War.
Special Forces form an important component of this doctrine and we need to focus on their capacity and capability building as well as training.
Let us all vow not only to avenge Nagrota but also ensure that it is the last such incident and no more — not through words but dedicated actions. Funds should not be a constraint because national security is paramount to create an environment of peace and development.
*Brig Anil Gupta (Retd) is a Jammu-based political commentator, columnist, security and strategic analyst. Comments and suggestions on this article can be sent to [email protected]